3/4/2014 10:42:00 AM Much ado about Shakespeare: "The Taming of the Shrew" hits all the right notes
Members of the Utah Shakespeare Festival perform Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” Feb. 20 at Williams Elementary-Middle School. Clara Beard/WGCN
Review by Deb Hoag Special to the Williams-Grand Canyon News
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - There was much ado about Shakespeare at Williams-Elementary Middle School Feb. 20 when the Utah Shakespeare Festival presented "The Taming of the Shrew."
The performance, which was free to the public, is a comedy about an abrasive young woman named Katherine and her charming younger sister Bianca - and the plots that ensue when Bianca's mother refuses to let her marry until someone takes the sharp-tongued Katherine off her hands. Bianca's many suitors are hopeless until the fearless Petruchio shows up and vows that not only will he win Katherine's hand in marriage, but that he'll teach her to settle down and behave, too.
The turnout was great - the auditorium was packed with everyone from grandmas and grandpas to pint-sized play-goers experiencing the Bard for the first time. And from the moment the high-energy cast took the stage, audience members - young and old - were entranced. The energetic, physically engaging performers used sight gags, bold colors and big movement on a minimalist set to open up English theatre world's original zany rom-com so that even the five-year old sitting in front chortled and giggled through nearly the entire performance.
The seven-member cast took on multiple roles to bring "The Shrew" to life. Like everything else they did, the cast used this as an opportunity to have yet more fun with the audience and wrung a whole new level of humor out of the play using prop changes in front of the audience to designate the changing of characters.
Rubber-faced, flexible funny man Misha Fristensky performed as several male characters and a woman, and carried out all of his on-stage duties with hilarious dignity.
Tetrianna Silas hit just the right notes, first as the despairing mother who can't wait to get her obnoxious daughter married off, and then flipping the tables as a rather obnoxious seamstress.
Ray Seams ran the gamut from boisterous bachelor to lovelorn suitor to elderly traveler. In the question and answer period following the performance, one of his fellow performers joked that if they weren't doing theatre, they'd have to get real jobs. "This is our real job," corrected Seams, over friendly laughter.
Kaitlin Mills played Bianca, the pretty sister, the agreeable sister, the younger sister who can't get married until someone takes the disagreeable Kate off Momma Babtista's hands.
Tony Carter played Lucentio, her oh-so-slightly scheming suitor, who was willing to fool Babtista to make some time with Bianca. They both played their parts with great comic timing and energy, perfect foils for the main characters.
Tom Littman played Petruchio with enough self-deprecating wit and warm charm to update his character into someone a 21st century crowd could relate to. His ability to reach out across the stage and engage the audience was irresistible.
Malloree Hill, who played Kaitlin with a verve and spirit that took just enough of the bitter out of her bite, managed to pull him the rest of the way across the 400-year-old gap. They managed to convey not only mutual love, but great friendship and, surprisingly enough, respect for each other once all the games were put to rest.
The production, which is billed as "A Shakespeare-in-the-Schools production," proved that Shakespeare can indeed continue to engage children and stimulate conversation and dreams for the youth. It's the Utah Shakespeare Festival's three-month-a-year program, in which actors from New York to Texas form a special company to travel throughout the tri-state area funded by grants, donations and collaborative efforts like this one to perform Shakespeare for audiences like the Williams audience.
After the production was over, the cast stayed to talk with the audience and answer questions, which ranged from the sophisticated to the whimsical. The cast or Dallin Mills, the company manager, answered them all with enthusiasm and care.
The Williams Unified School District and members of the community brought the theatre ensemble to Williams using Arizona Tax Credit money. More information about using the Arizona Tax Credit to help pay for projects like this in the Williams community is available at (928) 635-4473 or at http://www.wusd2.org/
More information about the Utah Shakespeare Festival is available online at www.bard.org.