Arts theater review

How many MIT students does it take to tame the shrew?

MIT Shakespeare Ensemble presents a fresh take on the classic tale

The Taming of the Shrew

Directed by Wendy Stuart

MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

La Sala de Puerto Rico

October 26-28, November 1-3

The MIT Shakespeare Ensemble prides itself on keeping a textual interpretation of the classic works while adding a modern twist to keep the plays fresh — and this is certainly true of their latest production, The Taming of the Shrew. The play follows the story of Katherina and Bianca, daughters of the wealthy lord Baptista. Because of Katherina’s shrewish disposition and Bianca’s desirability, Baptista decides that he will only marry off Bianca if Katherina gets a husband first. So begins a crazy journey of deception and false identities: Lucentio, Tranio, and Hortensio compete for Bianca’s hand in marriage, while Petruchio of Verona is the only suitor brave enough to deal with Katherina’s sass.

The play begins with Christopher Sly (Mark L. Velednitsky ’14), a drunken tinker for whom a group of players will perform a play called The Taming of the Shrew. Velednitsky fully commits to his role as “the drunk guy,” and his willingness to stumble across the stage and fall on the ground numerous times sets the stage to a play where all the actors and actresses are fully invested in their parts.

A majority of the play is centered on Petruchio and Katherina and their humorous banter as Petruchio tries to “tame the shrew.” Petruchio (Eric McGowan) and Katherina (Katherine A. Roe ’14) have amazing chemistry on stage, and they embody the characters well. Roe’s portrayal of Katherina is particularly noteworthy. Katherina is a fiercely independent character, and even Roe’s posture, with shoulders rolled back and intimidating gait, adds to the overall impression of her character as a shrew. Similarly, Petruchio is played with the perfect balance of suavé and silliness, a fine line that McGowan traverses well. As a whole, the cast adds the unerring energy of people who are having fun to their roles. This vivaciousness helps keep the audience invested over the course of the two and a half hours.

The Ensemble uses the limited space in La Sala de Puerto Rico well. The players enter on paths cutting through the audience, and the close proximity of the characters to the audience helps keep the viewer interested. However, the limited space does lead to fewer and more awkward set changes, and the static nature of these sets results in very little interaction between the actors and their props. Instead, the show is mostly just people acting out their lines, without moving around the stage or making use of the spartan props. This does tend to get a little boring, especially since the play is on the long side.

On a more positive note, the Ensemble does add interesting modern flair to the traditional interpretation of Shakespeare’s original work. Especially enjoyable was Petruchio’s laughable entrance to his own wedding, riding in to the popular tune of Oppa Gangnam Style. This ridiculous modern twist added humor to what could have easily been an outdated play.

Overall, the Ensemble runs with the convoluted and incredible nature of this Shakespearean comedy, putting on a show that is funny and energetic despite its unpolished nature. With cross-dressing, fight scenes, and Gangnam Style, the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble’s Taming of the Shrew is a crazy and modern, if not slightly static, interpretation of the Shakespearean classic.