THE TAMING OF THE SHREW by William Shaksepare
directed by T.J. Walsh*

*Outstanding Direction Award, DFW Theatre Critics Circle
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D Magazine
by M. Lance Lusk

Upon hearing that Trinity Shakespeare Festival was opening with The Taming of the Shrew, I was more than a little underwhelmed. Shakespeare’s sometimes-popular, farcical comedy has become relegated to either distant source material for the musical Kiss Me Kate or the record of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s torrid marriage writ large in Zeffirelli’s film. And though it is rarely staged, when the play does get produced, more often than not interpretations turn it into a relic fought over in the gender politics war.

But this is the Trinity Shakespeare Festival, which has already proven itself more than capable of handling the Bard’s trickier plays. In 2010, the festival has mounted a definitive version of the overplayed and little understood Much Ado About Nothing (directed by Stephen Fried), and last year’s the festival offered a revitalizing take on the oft-dismissed The Merry Wives of Windsor (directed by T.J. Walsh). They know what they are doing with any kind of Shakespeare over there, and boy does it show with this play.

Artistic Director Walsh helms a production that is impeccably paced, features razor sharp performances and possesses an intricate, yet charming sensibility. The world he creates with his staging meets the colorful, layered set by Tristan Decker (a 1900 Italian neighborhood), and Aaron Patrick DeClerk’s period costumes. David Coffee opens the play singing “’O sole mio” and delivers a winking prologue to the frequently discarded Induction that sets up the play-within-the-play aspect of Katherine and Petruchio’s rocky courtship. Coffee gets in a plug for Trinity’s other repertory show Julius Caesar, and sets Shrew’s “mirth and merriment” tone.

Incredible ensemble performances are typical of Trinity shows, and this play is no exception. Alex Organ as Lucentio and G. David Trosko as his witty servant Tranio are worth the price of admission alone. They caper about in disguises and relish every syllable of their lines. Organ is a real gem of local theater, and Trosko more than holds his own alongside him. Chuck Huber’s Petruchio is an affable rascal who anchors the play’s smirking yet loveable sensibility. Trisha Miller, as the spitting wildcat Katherine, is also a delight. Her catty sis chemistry with Jenny Ledel’s Bianca is a hoot. She absolutely crushes the crucial “Thy husband is thy lord” speech at the end of the play.

Coffee (playing Grumio) is so dependably good in everything that he does that one is almost tempted to become desensitized to his full-body antics and facial expressions; however, such is his talent and charm that he never fails to surprise and entertain. Alan Shorter’s music supervision is both aptly joyous and melancholy. Lovely singing by both Coffee and Amber Marie Flores is particularly good.

Five years ago Walsh wrote that Trinity’s mission was to “produce the work of Shakespeare with clarity, creativity and conscience” and allow his stories to play out with a “joy in the story-telling, a beauty in the execution and a respect for the tradition of Shakespeare’s enduring plays.” That respect for the tradition and Walsh’s vision have remained intact.