Reviewed by Gail M. Burns, November 1999
An uncut diamond looks just like a dirty rock. And if you gave one to me, it would stay a dirty rock for all eternity because I don't possess the skill to turn it into a beautiful gem. That takes skill, precise workmanship, and luck. That is what theatre takes too, and it is that last ingredient - luck - that makes all the difference. That is why someone like Stephen Sondheim or William Shakespeare can create a flop as easily as you or I can - luck just isn't with them.
When I saw the McCann production of "The Taming of the Shrew" at a dress rehearsal two nights before their opening, it was definitely still in the dirty rock stage. However, where I do not have the experience and skill to see a beautiful diamond in a hunk of rock, I do have what it takes to see a really exciting production peeking out from under the rough edges of a bumpy rehearsal. There is talent and energy on the stage, and Shakespeare & Company directors Celia Madeoy and Stephen Kosmicki have the skill to turn this into a real gem of a production - if only luck is with them.
This is the suspenseful part of the theatre, and this is why I hate reviewing a rehearsal. I will never know the answer to those burning questions: Will they get it together in time? Will the audience be friendly or hostile? Will they get lucky? I will never know the answer, but you can by buying a ticket and going to Adams Memorial Middle School on Friday or Saturday night.
I think that buying that ticket will be a good gamble because I'd say your odds are better than 50/50 that you will see a good show. Madeoy, Kosmicki, and their large cast have come up with an interesting setting for "Shrew". Shakespeare structured it as a play within a play, and the McCann cast has set it as a USO show performed in wild west style.
I had no trouble accepting the rivalry between the suitors for Bianca's hand, Baptista's insistence that Katherina was married first, or the rough and tumble aspects of the play when everyone was a bold adventurer into the American frontier. There was a great shortage of women in the American west, and it took a feisty type like Shakespeare's Kate to be ornery enough to tough it out in a covered wagon and a log cabin. It took rebellious, outlaw men like Petruchio to tame the continent and their wives - and it took those feisty women to tame them.
Amanda Hayden as Katherina/Kate, Caroline Wright as Bianca, and Jerry McBee as Baptista are all solid and enjoyable performers. I was interested in Wright's obnoxious, coniving and rambunctious Bianca. Too often Bianca is portrayed as a bleating sheep of a girl in contrast to Kate's spitfire personality. These sisters cope with similar personality traits in very different ways, and are quite convincing as siblings as well. I seem to recall a few fights with my sister that took similar turns, although I never did tie her wrists together!
At the rehearsal I saw Peter Milesi was a little too busy having fun to be completely convincing as Petruchio, but I am pretty sure that by the time you see him he will be fully in character. I don't know if a paying audience will be treated to his amusingly placed gun holster during the wedding scene when he appears clad only in a bright red union suit. Was it modesty or bravado that made him wear that gun in that particular spot? Enquiring minds want to know...
An actor to watch is the energetic and amusing Joel Butler who made me laugh every time he walked on to the stage as Biondello. Granted, it is a plum comic role, but Butler brought a great deal of himself and his youthful energy to the part. I hope to get a chance to see him grow up in a variety of roles on local stages in the years to come.
The McCann production of "The Taming of the Shrew" runs November 12 and 13 at 8 PM in the auditorium of the Adams Memorial Middle School on Columbia Street in Adams. It will be performed again as a part of the Fall Festival of Shakespeare on November 19 at 6:30 PM at the Robert Boland Theatre on the Berkshire Community College campus, 1350 West Street in Pittsfield. For tickets and information for the Adams performances call McCann at 413-663-5383. For tickets and information on the Fall Festival performances, call Shakespeare & Company at 413-637-1199, ext 106.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999