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A CurtainUp Berkshires Review
The Taming of the Shrew
What it's About: The play opens as celebrations in the Veneto heat up, and Christopher Sly, a poor tinker, is discovered in a state of high revelry and drunkenness. Trespassing onto the villa of a wealthy lord, he passes out, and the lord decides to play a trick on him. Sly awakens in the master bedroom of the villa as the lord persuades him that he has been asleep and delusional for 15 years but is now restored to his true self – a lord. Shortly after a troop of traveling players arrives at the villa, the true lord enlists them in his practical joke, inviting them to perform a play for Sly’s entertainment: The Taming of the Shrew. Lucentio, a young nobleman from Pisa, arrives in Padua to study at the university, accompanied by his trusty servant, Tranio. Baptista Minola, a wealthy merchant, has two daughters, Katharina (Kate) and Bianca. Baptista tells Bianca’s suitors, Gremio and Hortensio, that he will not permit Bianca to wed before he makes a match for her older sister, a notorious ill-tempered "shrew." Baptista asks the suitors to find tutors for his daughters, and Hortensio and Gremio agree to temporarily team up to find a husband for Kate. However, Lucentio, who has seen Bianca and fallen instantly in love, overhears everything and decides to disguise himself as a schoolmaster so he can get a job as one of Bianca’s tutors.
Soon after, Petruchio, an adventurous gentleman from Verona, arrives on the scene with his servant Grumio. Seeking a rich wife in Padua, Petruchio discovers just the woman when his friend Hortensio suggests the cursed Kate. Baptista is thrilled to find a suitor interested in Kate and a dowry is quickly negotiated with Petruchio. However, Kates’ father warns Petruchio that there is no deal unless he can truly win Kate’s love. What happens next is an ensuing battle – of the heart, intellect, stamina, and compromise of love.
The production is set in the time leading up to aster because this, too, is a time of transformation, from the superficial -- the masks and costumes and games of Carnivale -- to the profound: the spiritual journey of Lent, with its promise of redemption and new life.