Old Academy’s SHREW True to the Bard

by Neal Newman

Timothy Kirk as Petruchio, Julia Wise at Kate in Old Academy Players’ THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, running in Philadelphia, PA through September 29.

When director Carla Childs welcomed the audience to THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, she said: “We do Shakespeare because we love the language.”  And that is exactly what occurred.  No dishes were thrown, no bullwhips were brandished, no extensive musical score, and no haystacks were rolled in.  This performance was just a clearly spoken rendition of the play.  There were laughs, but all of them came from the audience’s understanding of the words and situations.  This is also a wise choice as the auditorium and stage of The Old Academy Players is quite tiny.  Considering that many of the large cast were high school students or making their stage debuts, this was a considerable achievement.

Shakespeare’s play retains its popularity by capturing the age-old battle-of-the-sexes.  Kate, a shrew that will not bow to any man, is finally “tamed” by Petruchio, not with kindness, but with physical and mental cruelty.  What must have been very funny to the Elizabethans, is pretty un-PC today, but this production implies that Kate and Petruchio will go on fighting.  Perhaps she will tame him?

Gerry Alexander, John Cannon, Joe Carney, Julia Wise, Timothy Kirk, Skye Pagon and Caleb Wimble in a scene from Old Academy Players’ THE TAMING OF THE SHREW.

Julia Wise plays Kate and her presence and beauty command the stage from her first entrance.  Caitlyn Shaffstall and Juan Caceras also give outstanding performances as energetic servants, with Ken Wilson as a morose servant.  Skye Pagon, Caleb Wimble, and Isaiah Price were delicious as the lovers.  This is not a memorable battle of the sexes as the Petruchio was miscast.

The setting by Sarah Swearer, was charmingly painted, and the costumes, (no designer listed) ranged from stunning (Kate and Bianca) to thrown together (the smaller roles).

The Old Academy Players perform a valuable service by training performers to “speak the speech”.  It will be especially valuable to audiences who find Shakespeare difficult to understand, and hard to read.

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Carla Childs
September 14-29, 2012
Old Academy Players
3544 Indian Queen Lane
Philadelphia, PA  19129

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