Last Leaf’s Taming of the Shrew-opens at Volunteer Park

The Taming of the Shrew

Under the deft and creative direction of Laura Kessler, Last Leaf Productions opened Taming of the Shrew at the Seattle Outdoor Theatre Festival in Volunteer Park on Saturday. One of Shakespeare’s early comedies, Shrew is beloved by both of actors and audiences because of its slap-stick antics, repartee which is sheer linguistic gymnastics, but most of all because underneath everything lies an inverted Beauty and the Beast message with accurate psychological insight.

In Padua in Italy, a rich widower, Senor Baptista, has two beautiful daughters, the younger, Bianca, is a pliable, people pleasing daddy’s girl, with umpteen suitors attracted by her docile demeanor. Katherina or Kate, the elder, is generally considered a “shrew,” and is not daddy’s favorite. In addition to being bad tempered, Kate is intelligent, quick witted and not content to play a super feminine role in society. The tricky problem for Bianca’s suitors is that Baptista will not allow Bianca to marry until Kate does, which given her reputation is near impossible, even with the substantial dowry.

Enter Petruchio, an eccentric adventurer from another city, dressed in ‘50’s bad boy attire; a black Leather jacket, indicating that he is highly unsuitable as a son-in-law for Baptista’s daughter Kate. Bianca’s suitors meanwhile plot and change identities to pose as her music and Latin tutors.

In the end, Petruchio unconventionally woos Kate, Baptista arranges the marriage, and Petruchio “tames” her by erratic, unreasonable behavior, sleep deprivation and generally acting like a lunatic control freak. After a lot of resistance, Kate is finally worn down and becomes docility itself- is one interpretation. Another interpretation is that Petruchio demonstrates what Kate’s behavior is like and shows her, how other people experience her, so that she realizes she must change; thus it is the ultimate act of love.

Shrew is very easily adapted into almost an era; director Kessler chose the 1950’s, which was spot-on. The authentic ‘50’s costumes and simple props were extremely creative and served the production well, revealing each characters’ personality, with lots of attention to detail. For example, there were actual small 1950’s small coke bottles!

Kate and Bianca wore full-skirted dresses, Kate’s wedding dress was vintage tea-length 1950’s. Most of the younger generation wore “sneakers” what are now called “converse.” To distinguish the “good boy Lucentio,” who wooed Bianca from “bad boy” black leather jacket clad Petruchio, Lucentio wore an athletic sweater. In the 1950’s only hoodlums wore black leather jackets and clean cut kids displayed their athletic prowess. There was even an appropriately dressed beat-nik!

Even though the production was only 60 minutes rather than a full-length, none of the high-points were missing, Kate and Petruchio’s famous wooing scene, the great, “is it the moon or the blessed sun conversation” was included . Of course Kate’s problematic speech at the end was included with a special touch by Kate herself.

It was a solid production, relying on creativity, the actors handled the language very well with the exception of Petruchio, who was quite weak. Most of the characters were animated, and made the complicated text come alive, but Petruchio more or less recited his lines and was low-energy.

Abby Price, as Kate, on the other hand, was full of energy, milked the text for every nuance and delivered a vibrant performance. Other standouts were Kira Thorkildson as Grumio, Will Schubert as Biondello and Elizabeth Adkisson as the Widow.

This is Last Leaf Productions’ 24th year, they tour throughout the summer in the Eastside suburbs, this year’s production of Shrew is perfect for outdoor Shakespeare, it is short, fun and suitable for the whole family, and it is free, although they do pass the hat. Congratulations to Director Laura Kessler, who put this all together.

Schedule of Performances:

Monroe Sky River Park
Sunday, July 9th at 5 pm

Woodinville 21 Acres
Saturday, July 15th at 4 pm

Arlington Terrace Park
Sunday, July 16th at 6 pm

Bellevue NW Arts Center
Wednesday, August 9 at 6:30

Lake Stevens Eagle Ridge Park
Sunday August 13 at 5 pm

Sky River Park
Sunday, July 9 at 5pm

Woodinville: 21 Acres
Saturday, July 15 at 4pm

Arlington Terrace Park
Sunday, July 16 at 6pm

Bellevue NW Arts Center
Wednesday, August 9 at 6:30 pm

Lake Stevens: Eagle Ridge Park
Sunday, August 13 at 5pm

Monroe Sky River Park
Sunday, July 9 at 5pm

Woodinville: 21 Acres
Saturday, July 15 at 4pm

Arlington Terrace Park
Sunday, July 16 at 6pm

Bellevue NW Arts Center
Wednesday, August 9 at 6:30 pm

Lake Stevens: Eagle Ridge Park
Sunday, August 13 at 5pm

for more information contact:
lastleafalex@ frontier.com

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