In celebration of its 23rd season, Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival presented its wonderfully light-hearted interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew. With a tremendous set design inspired by pastoral Arcadian landscapes and a natural backdrop of the Vancouver skyline, this opening night had nowhere to go but up.
The story begins with an older suitor named Gremio (Shawn Macdonald) and a younger and very enthusiastic gentleman named Hortensio (Kevin Kruchkywich) making a wager as to who might win the affections of the beautiful Bianca (Dawn Petten). The plot thickens as the audience learns that her father Baptista (Bernard Cuffling) will not agree to marry Bianca until her older sister Kate (Lois Anderson) finds a suitable husband. In typical Shakespearean fashion, the tangled web of comedy does not end here. A newcomer by the name of Lucentio (Anton Lipovetsky) enters the game and makes an already heated wager that much more interesting. One things leads to another and to make a long story short, the crafty Petruchio (John Murphy) steps in to save the day and make this little wager a bit less complicated by promising to take the older sister Kate to be his wife.
While I could continue to impress you Dear Reader with my exceptional summary of this four hundred year old story, I think that at this point it might be best to let you in on what stood out on this great opening night.
The entire cast had a great rapport and synergy that should make our local city proud. That being said, my favourites for the evening begin with the hilariously captivating performance of Petruchio by John Murphy and his sidekick Grumio played by Kayvon Kelly. If they weren’t born into the mind of Shakespeare himself and garbled out on the page by endless descriptions, their mesmerizing performance must have come from the actor’s genuine skill and a director’s (Christopher Gaze) fervent mastery of his craft.
The other three suitors played by Kevin Kruchkywich, Anton Lipovetsky, and Shawn Macdonald where remarkable in their additions to an exceptionally clever and humorous back and forth within the storyline.
While the story is quite humorous and light-hearted as was described earlier, the paternalistic reality of Shakespeare’s era and writing, at times, became quite jarring when it came time to come out of this fantastical world and get back to the realities that bind us in the 21st century.
If you are looking for something to do, and don’t feel the need to read in too heavily to Shakespearean literature, this one is definitely for you. What could be better than sipping a glass of local Sandhill Syrah while enjoying a summer performance at Kitsilano’s Vanier Park? I don’t believe much…so for more information, check out http://www.bardonthebeach.org/
Photo: David Blue