The Column Online



by William Shakespeare

Stage West

Directed by Jim Covault
Set Design by Jim Covault
Costume Design by Michael Robinson and Dallas Costume Shoppe
Lighting Design by Michael O'Brien
Props/Set Decor by Lynn Lovett


Bianca, et al: Katherine Bourne
Lucentio, et al: Jake Buchanan
Petruccio, et al: Chris Hury
Katherina, et al: Allison Pistorius
Tranio, et al: Mark Shum

Reviewed Performance: 3/2/2013

Reviewed by Elaine Plybon, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The Taming of the Shrew is an early comedy by William Shakespeare that has been produced with varying interpretations over the years. Often, those interpretations change the words of the writer and shorten the work, but others remain true to the original words Shakespeare penned. This interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew is a fun jaunt through the original script in its entirety, but I'm sure it is quite different than the original productions of the show.

The production brings the play to a nondescript time that seems familiar in its costuming and props, but unfamiliar in the style of language. The hilarious use of a redneck drunk, Christopher Sly, played by Chris Hury, during the induction scene is one of the beginning cues revealing the farce that would ensue.

In the induction, a lord, played by Mark Shum, schemes with some of his hunting mates to convince the passed-out Sly that he is also a lord. After being convinced, Sly is treated to a performance of a play which takes over the remainder of the show. This play within follows the lives of two sisters, Kate and Bianca, the many suitors of the younger Bianca, and one brave man who seeks to "tame" the eldest, Kate (the Shrew). The lives of the various characters are intertwined and sometimes difficult to follow, in part because of the multiple roles and sometimes multiple actors per role, which makes this production unique. However, I found that if I paid attention to the costumes that each character had, it made the transitions easier for me to follow once those costumes were handed over to a new actor.

The play runs long - it takes close to three hours with one 15 minute intermission. Because the original prose is used, it is sometimes difficult to follow and requires strong concentration. However, the cast brings an interpretation to each line that skillfully explains the situation to the extent that, even if we don't understand exactly what is said, we certainly understand the consequences.

The cast in this production is strong. There are only five members of the cast, each playing numerous roles. Occasionally, they will play each other's roles, as well. Interestingly, there are other times when nobody plays particular roles, which are pulled off in an inventive and farcical way. In fact, the whole play takes on the quality of a sincere farce. The actors are clearly full of energy and completely enjoy practicing their art at the highest form of comedy, presenting characterizations that have obviously been taken seriously in the depth of their development.

The five actors work well together in a fast-paced show that requires actors to do costume changes at the literal drop of a hat. At times, players may actually carry on conversations with themselves, as the script calls for more than one of their roles to be on stage at the same time. Near the end of the show, the celebratory banquet is hilarious as the small cast expertly delivers lines from all of their roles with a unique use of costumes.

There are several individual, notable moments. Katherine Bourne is skillful in the transitions between the many parts she plays. The only place where I often lost her is in the role of Bianca, but this could be because we see her infrequently.

Jake Buchanan does an exceptional job of transitioning between his roles, and sometimes adds humor into those transitions themselves, such as when he takes on the role of Baptista, the Godfather-inspired father of Kate and Bianca.

Chris Hury is enjoyable through several of his roles. As Petruccio, he is brash and confident, the perfect person to tame the rebellious and troublesome Kate. During a brief spotlight as a passer-by who is roped into pretending to be the father of Lucentio, it is clear that he is channeling the late Paul Lynde, but his hilarious delivery of lines sometimes become distracting in the sheer humor of them.

Allison Pistorius is skillful in delivering a strong performance as Kate, but also does a great job when portraying Gremio, an old man with a walker who has his eyes set on the young Bianca. This role is most often played by Katherine Bourne with equal skill.

Mark Shum's use of a "Bill and Ted"-like surfer dude accent and attitude during his stints as Hortensio is sometimes difficult to pull off because of the heavy wording of the script, but is an interesting take on the character. Shum also plays Tranio, who often disguises himself as Lucentio, and his transitions from the hunch-backed Tranio to the younger Lucentio are humorous in their own right.

Regarding costumes, designer Michael Robinson has chosen a simple base outfit for each actor. These actors change roles with the changing of jackets and/or hats and props. The girls wear black leggings and nondescript shirts under each outfit, while the men wear equally nondescript slacks and shirts. Through the addition of bright jackets, flaming red scarves, wigs and unique hats for various characters, the actors' transition between roles seamlessly, often delivering their lines through the costume changes.

The set is minimalist, consisting of a small wooden stage with strung lights and little else. It is such as would be expected of a traveling troupe in Shakespearian times. Throughout the show, I often felt as though that was exactly what I was witnessing - the type of nomadic, low-budget production that was prevalent in Shakespearian society. Clearly, this is the intent of Director Jim Covault, whose vision is evident in the cohesiveness of the production.

Whether a fan of Shakespeare or a novice wanting to dip their feet into the experience of the bard's unique style, theater patrons will find this playful interpretation of the classic enjoyable.

Stage West
821 West Vickery Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76104

Plays through March 24th
Shows are Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm
Tickets are $28.00 for Thursday evening and Sunday matinee, $32.00 for Friday and Saturday evening.

Prix Fixe Fridays: Every Friday after the first Friday of
each show, $39.00 per person buys dinner (gratuity included)
and the show (does not include alcoholic bevera