By Stephanie Eisemann, news staff
Bright Savage Theatre Project produced an adapted version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” on Tuesday, Nov. 10 and Thursday, Nov. 12 in the theater company’s first-ever production. The shows took place in local co-working spaces Workbar Cambridge and WeWork South Station, respectively.
“It’s fun and unexpected,” Elizabeth Loranth, founder and artistic director for Bright Savage, said. “Abbreviating the shows and putting them in settings with alcohol is ideal because people have short attention spans, and it just makes it fun.”
Actors in character served popcorn, cleared candy wrappers and provided guests with their first drink on the house. On Thursday, WeWork provided a bright atmosphere to the actors and the fictional world of Padua. “The Taming of the Shrew” was presented in just over an hour, with a mix of abbreviated original text and modernized asides.
In the shortened plot, Baptista, a noble father, meets the suitors of his youngest child, Bianca. The men are upset that the single status of Baptista’s eldest daughter Katherina, known for her snarky coldness, prevents them from reaching their love. Bianca could not marry until Katherina did. They find a husband for Katherina in Pertruchio, a son of a neighboring king, whose wit begins to win Katherina over. Lucentio, one of Bianca’s admirers, sees his pursuit of the kinder sister to be successful, leading to their union. Once both Petruchio and Lucentio have established their relationships with the women, they make a bet on whose partner is the most obedient, with Katherina hustling onlookers by unexpectedly showing subservience.
The script was reconstructed by Meghan Crotty, who met Loranth doing community theater in Boston. It took Crotty seven drafts to reach the final product, rebuilding the script to show Katherina choosing to fool the men rather than being forced to obey.
“We wanted to do short, immersive and something that’s more accessible,” Crotty, who also played Katherina, said. “Everyone plays the end [scene] so that it’s very sexist, very abusive and misogynistic, and I always thought that was kind of weird and strange, and so I wanted the chance to update that and play it to a more modern audience in a way that didn’t grate on me as a feminist and sort of rang more true to the way things are in 2015.”
The show not only worked with the theme of feminism, but sexuality as well. Bianca, the sweetheart sister to Katherina’s shrew, was played by Brian Balduzzi, who reimagined the typically female role in addition to serving as associate producer.
“I saw a lot of potential in the script… to kind of break down gender binary, sexuality binary and just imagine this as a love story and what happens in a love story,” Balduzzi said.
Crotty and Loranth knew going in they would be open to cross-gender casting for all roles except Katherina and her suitor Petruchio. Several other roles in the nine-character cast were changed from male to female.
Audience member Michael Edge of Arlington found the role reversal preferable to the traditional English form.
“Shakespeare works best when it’s gender-bent,” he said. “When it’s gender-bent and you skip the wedding.”
Photo by Scotty Schenck