Friday, Jun 23, 2017

Archive for July, 2013

The Taming of the Shrew (2013)

Left waiting at the alter, Kate (Nell Geisslinger) is not a happy woman. Photo by Jenny Graham

Left waiting at the alter, Kate (Nell Geisslinger) is not a happy woman. Photo by Jenny Graham

The Taming of the Shrew is a difficult play for modern audiences. There are scenes where it is clear that Petruchio is literally torturing Kate to make her submit (sleep deprivation and starvation). He clearly says that this is necessary, he does it for love of her, and he will continue until she submit and agree to whatever he says, completely.
“Ay, and amid this hurly I intend
That all is done in reverend care of her;
…This is a way to kill a wife with kindness;
And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humour.”
Act IV, Scene 1

Kate is reviled and belittled, even by her father. She suffers not fools, and being intelligent and knowing how poor her lot in the world (being a woman), she has become — as they say — shrewish. Modern audiences are deeply in sympathy with her position. So it is a tricky play to try to ‘pull off’.

Cymbeline (2013)

Imogen (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) goes to sleep with thoughts of her banished husband, Posthumus.  Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Imogen (Dawn-Lyen Gardner) goes to sleep with thoughts of her banished husband, Posthumus.
Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Variously called a problem play, a romance, a tragedy and a comedy, Cymbeline is a rarely performed play from the end of Shakespeare’s career. And there are good reasons for that. The plot contains many of his favorite tropes and themes: a man’s noble character is clear, even when he is raised basely; a change of clothes makes a woman into a man and transforms one man into another; lost children are returned to their family; evil ambition is thwarted. As well, the supernatural — particularly a seeress and dead relatives — plays a role in tying all of the plot elements together. These are familiar themes for Shakespeare — what is unusual is how he changes your expectations.