Director Sarah Stanley's clever twist on The Taming Of The Shrew turns a tale that's difficult for contemporary audiences to take -- notably its implication that women should be subservient to men -- on its head.
She retains, even emphasizes, the frame story of the drunken Christopher Sly, tricked into thinking himself a nobleman watching the play's main action. Here Sly dreams and becomes, with the topsy-turvy logic of the subconscious, the shrewish Kate.
Stanley transforms the inn hostess at odds with Sly into Petruchio, and the sparring of the gender-reversed pair provide much of the spark in this up-and-down production.
There's a genuine chemistry between Jordan Pettle, who doesn't play fem, and the swaggering Yanna McIntosh, especially in their first meeting -- make that a physical and verbal duel that transforms into a mutual wooing -- and an admirable clarity in handling text and character. Kate's last speech of compliance, a notoriously thorny moment to stage, here becomes the last episode in the education of Christopher Sly.
Where the modern-toned production stumbles is in some of the other casting, with actors not up to the material's rhythms or language. Fortunately, Patrick Conner is a comical, quicksilver-tongued Tranio, Michael Spencer-Davis displays his best clown as Grumio and Roy Lewis is grounded as Baptista, Kate's father. The show's broad humour sometimes turns flat as it inflates in the early half of the play, but by the end, the comic engine has been sufficiently primed.
The audience enjoys the merriment in the outdoor staging, but at a deeper level, this is a production that speaks to people who know the play and see how Stanley has subverted a traditional view of the tale.
For others, some of the laughs may be shallow. JK
SHREW, by William Shakespeare, directed by Sarah Stanley, with Yanna McIntosh, Jordan Pettle, Janet Burke, Patrick Conner, Paul Haddad, Roy Lewis, Anand Rajaram, Michael Spencer-Davis and Carly Street. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Dream Site, High Park (opposite Grenadier Cafe). Runs to August 20, Tuesday-Sunday at 8 pm. Pwyc ($10 suggested). 367-1652 ext 500. Rating: NNN