Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Theatre: Taming of the Shrew (3 reviews)

KatherinaPetruchio.jpgThe New Theatre opened its latest Summer Shakespeare offering of Taming of the Shrew on August 27, 2009.

Robert Prestigiacomo directed a cast that includes Karen Garcia, Israel Garcia, Jackie Rivera, Joshua Horn, Stephen Neal, Christopher Vicchiollo, Rusty Allison, Clint Hooper, Dawn A. A. Plummer, and Adriana Perez.

Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
The Taming of the Shrew takes place in Italy, where Commedia dell'Arte flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its plot involves lovers, old men and crafty servants, all stock characters in improvised Commedia theater. And though Shakespeare's original has almost 30 parts, New Theatre's version demonstrates the play can be performed by 10 actors, the standard number in a Commedia company.

How much you'll enjoy New Theatre's Taming of the Shrew, however, may depend on how much you appreciate -- or can tolerate -- the relentless silliness of Commedia style.
What too often is lost in this high-energy, intensely busy production is The Taming of the Shrew.
Odious as the idea of a man ``taming'' his wife seems to us in the 21st century, if you're going to play Petruchio, you do it with all the wiliness and bombast the Bard wrote into the character. Garcia is masterful, and you have to wonder what this Shrew might have been like had his cast mates risen to his level.
Karen Garcia (no relation) doesn't come close as Katharina, aka the shrewish Kate. A beauty with a sultry voice, she spends much of the play arranging her hands into various poses, as if getting ready to vogue down a runway.
Clint Hooper has a whistling, scene-stealing turn as Vincentio, the aged father of Lucentio (Joshua Horn), one of the pretty Bianca's many suitors. But such small moments of true theatrical comedy get swamped by a frenzied Commedia tidal wave.
Mary Damiano reviewed for
It's New Theatre's custom to do a little summer Shakespeare. I used to think that it was a good thing, if only to expose audiences to the Bard's work, but now I question whether bad Bard is better than no Bard at all.
The Taming of the Shrew is Shakespeare's battle of the sexes tale of spirited, headstrong Katherina and Petruchio's scheme to mold her into a submissive wife. In New Theatre's production, the misogyny is played with full force, without the wink to the audience that many directors include to soften the edges of cruelty.
The saving grace... is Israel Garcia. His Petruchio is clever and roguish, and he's the only actor who imbues his delivery with meaning. As Katharina, Karen Garcia (no relation) looks as if she's a marionette--her entire performance consists of posing, pouting and sneering. The unrelated Garcias do manage to conjure up some lustiness in an early scene together, but they don't maintain that chemistry.
Shakespeare's plays require actors trained in his work. Not every performer, no matter how talented they might be in other areas of theatre, can perform Shakespeare's dialogue with the feeling and rhythm it should have. There's a lot of talent on New Theatre's stage during The Taming of the Shrew; the performers have proven themselves in other productions. There are probably performers in South Florida who can ably perform Shakespeare, they just don't seem to get cast at New Theatre.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
This production certainly has a different flair. New Theatre Artistic chief Ricky J. Martinez chose a visiting “theatre-maker” from Italy, Roberto Prestigiacomo, to direct this production, and selected a topnotch cast of ten – some obviously playing multiple roles — to ham it up for the audience in the tiny space on Laguna Street.
In this play within a play, Katharina ( a talented Karen Garcia) is known for her volatile temper and for her reputation that no man can tame her. Her younger sister Bianca (Jackie Rivera) is much sought after, but – according to her father Baptista (Stephen Neal), she cannot wed until her older sister takes the marriage vow, much to the chagrin of Lucentio (Joshua Horn) and Hortensio (Clint Hooper) and other suitors. Then, on the scene comes Petruchio ( a scene-stealing Israel Garcia) who — though only interested in money and fine jewels – eventually weds and turns Kate into an obedient woman.
The charming Christopher Viccihiollo, Rusty Allison, Adriana Perez and Dawn A.A. Plummer round out the ensemble company of actors (and actresses).
Taming of the Shrew plays at New Theatre through September 27, 2009.

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