“Rourke directs the inner Shrew (which occupies most of the running time) with almost total surety. She has a jovial, powerful Petruchio in Ian Bedford. Amato, a spirited comedian who lands somewhere between Joanna Lumley and Tracey Ullman, is equal parts quirky and primal. And the various bumbling acolytes, played by the likes of Sean Fortunato, Mike Nussbaum and Brian Sills, are all rich comedic creations. Grumio— played by Stephen Ouimette (Slings and Arrows)— is consistently hilarious.
Rourke and her cast (arrayed on a beautiful, shutter-clad Italianate design from Lucy Osborne) solve many of the usual Shrew problems inside the actual play. They do so by making the men sufficiently ridiculous to have no real bite; by making Amato’s Kate beautiful and intelligent and witty enough to better them all and imply that every man there knows it from Day One; and by offering rich and clear takes on the language.
The famous concluding monologue by Amato is so lustfully complex, so full of the thoughts of a brilliant young woman born about 500 years too soon, that any Shrew detractors who bought a ticket will have to sit up and take notice. That’s the way to deal with the Shrew problem: find the richness in the text. Ironically, the new addition is successful only in helping you see what is already there.”
“A check of the program showed we were not only getting the Bard, but Neil LaBute, an accomplished playwright who added scenes at the beginning, middle and end. Or, as the playbill called it, ‘The Frame: Setting Now. A company of actors, in the midst of tech rehearsal, prepares for a production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.’
The reason for the frame is obvious. Shrew tells the tale of Katharina, an insanely bitchy gal who is ‘tamed’—read ‘abused into submission’—by her clever/curel new husband. Not exactly a plot guaranteed to delight those raised on Our Bodies, Ourselves.
So the production makes an attempt at context. It’s as if I decided to stage a minstrel show at the Chicago Theatre, donning blackface and singing ‘My Mammy’ and ‘Swanee’ and similar fare. Sure, I just could smear on the burnt cork and go for it unadorned—that would be the boldest dramatic choice— but the night would go down a lot more smoothly if I got Cornel West to deliver a 20-minute prologue about race before each performance.
Shrew worked for me. In fact, I loved it—a thoroughly enjoyable blend of the frantic behind-the-scenes showbiz hysteria of Noises Off and the soul baring of A Chorus Line. There are many laughs, one in particular—the lights suddenly come up and reveal... I’ll say no more in case you see it, and you should—is perhaps the biggest laugh I’ve had in a theater in years.”
“There’s much to like in CST’s latest play, which benefits from Rourke’s skilled direction and top-notch physical comedy. Lucy Osborne pulls impressive double duty with set and costumes, using myriad doors, balconies, Uggs and codpieces. Brian Sills’s servant Tranio is a gift, and Amato gives Kate a rueful dignity. By all means, see this glorious ensemble’s work.”
“Brit director Josie Rourke gets fresh, playful, endearing performances from an extremely well-chosen cast mixing Chicago masters with solid young local talents and accomplished out-of-towners. ”
“Of all the times we’ve seen The Taming of the Shrew—and it’s been at least six major productions over the years not to mention several close readings through grad school—not once has the play ever made sense to us.
Now comes Josie Rourke’s take on Shrew, framed by a prologue, entr’acte and a post-final-monologue addendum—additions penned by no other than Neil LaBute. Thanks to LaBute’s brash tinkering, The Taming of the Shrew finally works. Its woman-are-chattel-and-they-better-like-it message gone. Better still, the play itself is funnier, richer and far more meaningful. It takes a certain degree of cojones—make that ovaries—to so brazenly mess with The Taming of the Shrew. LaBute has them. With Rourke, he solves the Bard’s infamous problem play.
There’s something else remarkable about this Shrew: The concept superimposed over Shakespeare’s text actually enhances that text rather than minimizes it. The context of the Director as Star’s Lover throws the whole world of this Shrew into a new perspective. In the manner of Noises Off, the tempestuous relationships off-stage make those onstage suddenly bloom with often hilarious, ironic and insightful subtext. The banter between Kate and Petruchio seems to stand out in HD against LaBute’s framing. The added scenes show in stark, brutally funny relief how theater—like pretty much everywhere—is high school. Gossip runs rampant, cliques form, and levels of self-absorption are off the charts.
It helps that Rourke’s cast is anchored by actors who know their business. Mary Beth Fisher has a way with wry like nobody else around, and it is put to powerful use here. Like Katharine in the play-within-the-play world of Shrew, the Director also gets a monologue. It’s a riff on one of those cheesy curtain speeches wherein the audience is thanked effusively for showing up after being urged to read the inserts in the program. This curtain speech, however, is one of escalating hysteria as The Director slowly, irrevocably loses her sh*t on stage.
And then there’s that final, glorious sentence by Amato. In less than 10 words, we get a perfect union of Amato’s character as Kate and as the actor playing Kate. And it makes the whole, blessed hitherto misogynistic problem of a play finally come together.”
“The new Induction critically engages the heinous gender politics of The Shrew. The counterpoints of fidelity and adultery, of control and submission, of mind and body, are hashed out in the dialog between Shakespeare’s play and its new frame. This is no gold-leafed frame; this is a magnificent character-study cast in 24-karat gold, soft gold that shows every mar and scratch and bump ever endured.
This is among the finest ensembles I have seen—taut and giving, flawless. The Shakespearean meat of this production is a glorious rendering of this controversial play. The unflinchingly raw and unerringly polished production is a cautionary tale to anyone who might be so blinded by love or disdain that they cannot recognize when they are being played, their heartstrings cunningly plucked by a master manipulator. DO NOT MISS this gorgeous, lavish, resolute production.”
“The union of Rourke, LaBute and Shakespeare have combined for an entertaining evening. LaBute’s material is entertaining and edgy. The ensemble features a clutch of excellent performances. Larry Yando is a joy as Katharina’s droll and long suffering father and Mike Nussbaum, God bless him, at age 86 is a hoot as a rich old codger who fancies himself a legitimate wooer for Biance. Brian Sills makes a real character out of the servant-turned-master Tranio.”
Explore The Taming of the Shrew and learn more about the production.