Highly Recommended*****One of the things that makes the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier so special is their children’s programs. Each year, we are treated to a very special version of a Shakespeare classic, brought down to 75 minutes and customized to allow young people to see something special, in a way that allows them to see and understand the works of the Bard. This year, they have chosen “The Taming of The Shrew” as adapted by Director Rachel Rockwell. Rockwell, who is an award winning choreographer and director for the adult theater audiences, continues to impress me with her view to bringing young audiences into the world of “live theater”. I truly feel that if they begin to enjoy and learn from viewing live theater at a young age, they will grow up with a love of this art form and with directors like Rockwell showing them the way, it becomes easy. “Taming” which has had several other adaptations ( “Kiss Me Kate” is the musical version) is a story about love told through some wild and crazy characters.
Rockwell has assembled a marvelous cast to bring ths shorter and concise version to the stage. The story is about Baptista Minola ( the always incredible Don Forston) who has two daughters,, the lovely Bianca(Tiffany Yvonne Cox) and her older sister Katharina ( a powerful performance by Erika Ratcliff) who is the town “Shrew” ( she is evil and nasty and unliked by all). All the area men vie for the hand of young Bianca, but she cannot marry until her older sister does and there is no man in the area willing to take her on. When Lucentinio ( Nicholas Harazin) and his servant,Tranio ( Alex Goodrich, who continue to show his comic talents) come to town, Lucientio decides to woo the lovely Bianca by switching clothes and identities with Tranio and become her teacher. Of course, they still must find someone for Katharina- enter Petruchio ( Matt Muellr truly makes this character the centerpiece of the show) What we have are two strong willed people going at each other who in the long run, find each other as well as their own personalities as they fall in love.
This is true Shakespeare with people changing identities and lots of mistaken identities and laughter for the audience. The silly Hortensio ( Matthew Sherbach is a scream),Jessie Fisher,Jeffrey Baumgartner, Jose Antonio Garcia, Mick Weber,and Terrance Mosley are delightful and appear to be havng as much fun as the audience.The set by Kevin Depinet is simple and doesn’t take away from the action on the stage. The added music by Kevin O’Donnell adds something special to the movement of the action, Jaqueline Firkins costumes are stunning and the lighting by Jesse Klug adds just the right touch for 75 minutes of pure fun for a Saturday morning.
“Taming” will run through April 7th at Navy Pier at 11 a.m. each Saturday. Tickets are a mere $16-$20 and are available by calling 312-595-5600 or by visiting www.chicagoshakes.com/shortshakespeare