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‘Taming of the Shrew’ stays true to Shakespeare in modern adaptation

Ruby Cerino
Performances of “Taming of the Shrew” will be shown on October 23, 24, 25 and 26 at the Wise Family Theater.

There’s nothing quite like the looks on the audiences’ faces as they watch the cast of Chuck Gorden’s rendition of “The Taming of the Shrew” swing chairs and scream their lungs out at each other on the stage of UTEP’s Wise Family Theatre.

The 75-minute performance, being shown throughout late October, showcases 19 very skilled actors taking on the roles of one of William Shakespeare’s most comedic works, which has been modernized and takes place in 1964 Brooklyn.

The play begins outside of Baptista’s, an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, where the young and beautiful Bianca (freshman music theater major Caitlin Burnside) works for her father. Businessmen Hortensio (junior theater major Patrick Marshall) and Gremio (senior English and American literature major Lori Whitaker) both wish to marry Bianca, but her father Baptista (Jaime Gonzalez) tells the men that he will not allow Bianca to marry until his other daughter, the notoriously evil Katharina (senior philosophy major Ellen Smith) marries. Lucentio (sophomore theater arts major Brian Craig Ceely), who has recently arrived in Brooklyn from Boston, overhears this conversation. Falling for Bianca as well, Lucentio comes up with a plan to have her become available to him.

Each actor seems as if they were born to act as the character they represent in the performance. Fitting into their roles so perfectly, those familiar with the original play can easily tell who is who before a single line is spoken. The costumes and makeup are done so perfectly that even sexes are hidden for the actresses who play male characters.

Not a single line or action misses a beat in the performance. From a peaceful conversation outside of a family restaurant to a disastrous, drunken wedding reception, everything has flawless precision and flows like water. The emotions expressed through the actors seem legitimate, both through physical expressions and through tone of voice, to the point where the audience forgets that they’re watching a scripted play and believe that the people on the stage honestly want to rip each other’s hearts out.

Retaining the poetry of Shakespeare’s work over 400 years ago, Chuck Gorden’s adaptation stays true to the classic writing style down to the last spoken syllable. The dialogue remains in Elizabethan English, yet nothing seems awkward or out of place. The actors do a commendable job of letting their words fall into place, giving off a natural, rather than forced tone that Shakespearean works have become infamous for in many current renditions.

As a comedy, the humor is all where it should be. Junior theater arts major Abel Gonzalez remains anything but prudish as he portrays Petruchio, a loud, bigheaded biker from Buffalo, who has come to Brooklyn in hopes of marrying a woman with money. The audience cracks up at the sight of Petruchio squeezing the sensitive parts of his servant Grumio (Joe Ogle) and sexually licking the face of his newlywed wife, while the rest of the cast tries their hardest to keep themselves from laughing. The slapstick humor tied in with light innuendos made for a hilarious performance.

The theatre department’s performance of “The Taming of The Shrew” is a work of art. Fans of classical Shakespearean works and even those who don’t particularly like plays will enjoy the memorable and comedic performances to be shown on October 23, 24, 25 and 26. Tickets to the show are worth the price and sales benefit the UTEP theatre and dance department. For more information, call 747-5118.

Joseph Esposito may be reached at [email protected].

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‘Taming of the Shrew’ stays true to Shakespeare in modern adaptation