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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

APT's Fiery 'Taming of the Shrew'

Theater Review

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Spring Green's American Players Theatre is the dramatic house that William Shakespeare built, but only two of the Bard of Avon's works grace this year's eight-play schedule. The first, The Taming of the Shrew, opened with enough fire to warm a chilly Saturday night in the company's open-air amphitheater.

The always impressive Tracy Michelle Arnold plays the titular role, teeth bared from the moment she comes onstage. Shakespeare does little to explain Kate's behavior, intent on using her as a comic engine to confound a handful of confused suitors to her younger sister Bianca (Ashleigh LaThrop), whose betrothal must wait until Kate is wed.

Enter the adventurer Petruchio (James Ridge), accompanied by servant Grumio (a hysterical David Daniel), who immediately rises to the challenge of “taming” and marrying Kate in return for a hefty dowry from her relieved father Baptista (John Pribyl).

Ridge plays his role with a bravado dialed full-on, creating a stronger physical presence than usual as he attempts to confine, confuse, confound and “out-shrew” his volatile bride, while at the same time coddling her affections. Arnold replies with resistance, then an indifference that eventually melts into compliance, then devotion much the same way prisoners of war, submitted to batteries of psychological abuse, eventually espouse allegiance to their captors.

In the end, love will out, Kate is tamed and everyone is married. Score one for the guys? That depends on your point of view.

American Players Theatre's The Taming of the Shrew continues through Oct. 2.
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