Saturday, April 28, 2012

Babies Eat Gerber, Cats Eat Gerbera

The other night, the old drawer pulls of my old bureau pulled my new knitted blouse.  They’ve attacked me before, but a new top is too much, so I determined to get new drawer pulls.  I went down to Home Depot last night after work, and searched the 100 or so styles to fit what I already had — that is, I was too lazy to drill a new hole and figure out how to fill the others, so I brought one old pull with me to ensure a fit with the drawers as they are presently drilled.

I found a favorite.  It was $27 a pop.  One drawer pull $27, and I needed ten.  Can you imagine?!  So I settled for something plain and rounded that wouldn’t rip my clothing or me as I squeeze through the space between my bed and bureau.  Now that I have ten new drawer pulls, I’ll have to take each drawer out.  That should mean I get rid of some clothing pushed to the back corners, as well.  Let’s hope.
Dashiell's astilbe in bloom

As I headed toward the cashier, my favorite flower caught my eye.  Broadly, my favorite flower is a daisy of most any sort.  Specifically my favorite flower is the Gerbera Daisy.  Daisies are happy.  Gerbera Daisies are overjoyed in vibrant colors.  Why would I buy a plant at a big box hardware store?  Who knows, but the salmon-colored petals called to me.  So I brought that home as well.  Once I got there, I discovered why I no longer bring home cut flowers.
Milo with his flowers and water bowl
 My old Milo loved to chomp on the greens that surround a bouquet of flowers.  He never ate the flowers themselves.  Not so Wilbur.  Not five minutes on my kitchen counter, and that plant had lost its petals to Wilbur.  I didn’t catch him chomping the flower, but I caught him jumping off the counter, where he clearly knows he doesn’t belong. 

Poor Gerbera.  I put it in the glass-fronted cabinet for safe-keeping overnight, and planted it this morning in the garden.  Where it will be safe.  I do hope it grows new petals.
The remains of the Gerbera

That Darn Cat.

~ Molly Matera, signing off.  I’ve planted, I’ve watered, now to bathe myself in the glory of a beautiful day staring at my growing garden. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"And what did Shakespeare ever do for me?" she asked.

Alas, as I am neither scholar nor poet, I cannot write an ode on what’s owed to William Shakespeare.  Since I cannot provide an “O,” I’ll provide a few 1's.

First 1st:  My first paying job as an actor was playing Shakespeare across 40 or so states; oddly enough (to me), I was cast as Luciana, the mild sister in The Comedy of Errors.  As first jobs go, it was thrilling, it was swell, frustrating, exhausting, and provided fodder for many a dinner conversation.  The play had been cut to run an optimal one hour ten minutes to fit into an ever-so-slightly expanded assembly period in junior and senior high schools.  Actors played multiple roles, which is fun, so long as the script doesn’t have an actor as character “A” say he was present to hear a statement, when in fact it was the actor’s other character, “B,” who’d been in that scene to hear it.  See? 

Second 1st: The first time I played a man.  The Riverside Shakespeare Academy’s production of Richard II was up and running after two weeks of rehearsal.  The casting was gender-blind, and my Richard was not androgynous — such has never been my body type.  Playing Richard was a terrifying challenge that allowed me to soar on the wings of my perfectly reasonable terror and become Richard for sixteen performances.  Sheer joy.

Third 1st:  My friend Horvendile and I directed a bunch of talented women in an all-female staged reading of Julius Caesar.  You’d be amazed how different all those overly familiar speeches become from a woman’s point of view, in a woman’s voice.  A fascinating experience.

As I said, I’m no scholar, so talking about the Bard is, perforce, personal for me.  Shakespeare has gotten me through a lot.  When struggling to memorize a soliloquy on the subway, a person can ignore a lot of unpleasantness around her.  Boring temp assignments fly by, when the opportunity is there to type a monologue into the computer to test my memory.  When I read one back, I knew just how many beats my memory had misplaced.  On a different temp assignment, I worked reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (remember when the business day ended at 5?) for a few months.  I had the opportunity to read through the entire canon.  Twice.
© 2012 Shakespeare by the Sea Festival – St. John’s

If you’ve read this blog for any period of time, you’ll note I see a lot of Shakespearean theatre.  Men playing women, women playing men, men playing everybody, it doesn't matter to me, as long as the play's the thing.  I've even seen Shakespeare in Swedish, Japanese, and Portuguese, where no one noticeably  mangles the verse.  The Bard of Avon has given me many gifts in my lifetime, on and off the stage.  The only gifts I can give in return are to celebrate his birthday and acknowledge that this son of a glover (and minor politician) from Stratford could and indeed did write those plays and poems.  William Shakespeare, son of John, was the greatest playwright/poet in the English language.  Really –— can you read, write, and speak Latin?  His grammar school education taught him that, and rhetoric, and logic.  He proved himself a man of the people, not of the elite who deny him. If you don't believe me, how about a scholar, Jonathan Bate, in an interview with PBS Frontline.

Will earned a coat of arms for his father and family, with the saying, “Non Sans Droict” (translated as “Not without Right”).  Certainly father John and son William Shakespeare deserved the right to sign themselves as “Gentlemen.”  Damn right. 

Happy Birthday Shakespeare.  And thanks.

~ Molly Matera, signing off.  Time to start from the beginning and read through all the Works again.  Or pop a Playing Shakespeare DVD into the machine….

This post is part of today's Happy Birthday Shakespeare Project.  Click on the link and keep the celebration going.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Cabin as Rubik's Cube

The poster for The Cabin in the Woods (“TCITW”) is a clue to the film, if you choose to analyze it.  The cabin itself is not what it appears.  Nor is the movie.
(C) 2012 Lionsgate.

I see no cause to be mysterious about my overall opinion, so first things first:  Go see this movie. 

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods is fun, it’s a trip of the LSD sort, a kick, a blast.  When you have seen this, you’ll realize it is not a simple teenage slasher movie. It has elements of those, of course.  It also includes 1950s science fiction as well as gathering paranoia.

The movie has some jumps, some gasps and shrieks, and a lot of laughs.  In terms of laughing to breathlessness, one of my best nights in the theatre ever was the panty-wetting “Evil Dead: The Musical,” and The Cabin in the Woods pays its homage to the “Evil Dead” movies and all those that came before and after.  There is the eponymous cabin in the woods with a lake out back.  It is its own little world.  If the camera had ever pulled back so far, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a snow globe.
A very cool alternate poster for The Cabin in the Woods.  (C) 2012 Lionsgate

The requisite characters are all here:  The Jock, The Dumb Blonde, The Egghead, The Virgin, and the Clown.  These five archetypes are portrayed to perfection by Chris Helmsford as Curt, the Jock/Alpha Male who’s actually on academic scholarship; Anna Hutchison as Jules, the dumb blonde who only just became either on the day the story starts; Jesse Williams as Holden, the smart nice guy; Kristen Connolly as Dana, who we’ll call the good girl — virgin is a bit much to ask in this day and age — and finally the wonderful Fran Kranz as Marty, the clown, fool, the stoner. 
Kranz as Stoner Marty, Helmsford as Jock Curt, and Hutchison as Jules. (C) 2012 Lionsgate.

Two storylines converge in The Cabin In The Woods, augmented by myriad tales of times gone by.  The first storyline begins with the adroit pairing of Richard Jenkins as Sitterson and Bradley Whitford as Hadley.  Those two white shirted company men are Men In Black with pocket protectors instead of suit jackets.  Jenkins and Whitford are hilarious together, having a mundane domestic talk as they walk down a non-descript hallway to a lab with nary a test tube but screens and buttons and lots of unprofessional humor.  Each man’s last line in the film is just perfectly suited to his character.  And I won’t tell you what or why, you’ll just have to wait for it. 

It’s tough to tell who’s in charge of this massive federal expenditure, Whitford’s Hadley with his handsome sad sack face, or Jenkins’ Sitterson with his wry humor.  The delightful Amy Acker appears as a scientist named Lin, seemingly above the others, then joining in the totally unethical office pool.  Suffice to say her character from the show Angel receives a tip of the hat here as well.  Brian White looks just so trustworthy and above this behavior as Truman.  Alas, poor Truman. Oh, and there are mystery guests here as well.

Jenkins as Sitterman, Acker as Lin, Whitford as Hadley in the scientific complex.  (C) 2012 Lionsgate.
From the get-go Messrs. Whedon and Goddard (they wrote and produced together, and Mr. Goddard directed) want to let us in on the joke.  They tell us about the creepy guy at the decrepit gas station (played chillingly by Tim DeZarn), and show us the electronic web isolating the location — alas, poor bird.  We know we’ll see that web again.  Then there are the creepy 19th century toys in the inevitable basement of the cabin.  The movie could be split screen, with its two concurrent storylines coming together in surprising fashion.  The visuals are effective, building up the clues, creating not just a horror flick, but also science fiction with social commentary, its government scientists inhabiting an underground complex that’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “The Initiative” on steroids.
Holden the Egghead, Curt, Jules, and Marty (C) 2012 Lionsgate.

The movie is speeding along on a bumpy road in an open jeep with no shocks and no windows (OK, so they drove an RV, you know what I mean), and then the explanatory denouement goes on a bit too long.  Even once we know what’s been happening — but not what’s coming next — it’s still rollicking good fun, then slows down for too much “visual explanation” of everything you’ve ever wondered about — under your bed, in the closet, or what really lurks in the murky depths of the mountain lake.  I’m a fan of less is more.

My quibble is a spoiler, so skip this paragraph if you haven’t seen the movie yet.  To me, and no one knows this better than Messrs. Whedon and Goddard, things that go bump in the night are scarier than monsters we can see.  I’m sure it was fun, giving life to creatures of myth, fable, and their imaginations, and I can just see Whedon and Goddard fighting for their favorites.  Unfortunately, neither won, so the list was not winnowed.  Hence the overlong denouement.

Whedon and Goddard do not wimp out at the end.  Honest and fitting closure is provided by something akin to my memory of the moving logo of the very old black-and-white anthology television show Thriller (which predated Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” by several decades). 

Jesse Williams and Kristen Connolly as the smart guy and the good girl.  (C) 2012 Lionsgate.

Who needs to see The Cabin in the Woods?  People who liked the first couple seasons of Supernatural.  People who like Whedon’s wit and work (e.g., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, and Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, among others).  People who like Drew Goddard’s work (e.g., Cloverfield, episodes of Buffy, Angel, Alias, and Lost as a writer, as well as all of those as co-producer).  Most importantly, people who like their frights seasoned with humor.  It’s date night, kids.  Go have fun.  Quibbles notwithstanding, I'm ready to go on this ride again.

~ Molly Matera, turning off the computer but not the light.  It’s dark out there.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Staycation Day 3

I took a few days off this week so I could space out backyard cleaning, digging, raking, and planting over 3-4 days instead of an insufficient weekend.  It's day 3, and I'm exhausted.

However, what needed pruning is pruned, what needed raking is raked, soil needing turning is turned, and flowers and vegetables planted.

The cats quite enjoyed my outdoor work.  I found two kittens watching me trim back a hedge in the front of my apartment that was working its way into the air conditioner.  Then as I scrubbed and freshened the birdbaths, I had all three watching when robin came to bathe.

Best part of yesterday was the hot shower after all the prep work.  Best part of today was after the hot shower — sitting out back staring at my new plants.

There’s more work to be done outside, but nothing that will set these old bones to aching the way opening up the garden does.  Now I’ll just have to pay attention – this year beneficent negligence won’t do.  I put in a zucchini plant, swiss chard, a pole bean plant (they’ve done well in my yard in the past), then more sage than I’d ever use (what was I thinking?) parsley, nasturtium, sorrel, and something I’ve never heard of but it was cool looking:  Santolina Neapolitana.  It’s a Perennial Herb and is supposed to be an insect repellant.  Also planted some catnip.  Uh oh.  What I did not plant was rosemary, but that hardy girl survived our mild winter in her pot and is thriving. Who knew?

Also planted sedum, and before it was even in the ground, its assertion was proven by this beautiful visitor:

So birds and butterflies, come on over.  The garden awaits you.  Squirrels, all those marigolds are for you:  keep away!

~ Molly Matera, signing off to pop some ibuprofen so I might be able to get up tomorrow.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Angling for Love Among the Salmon

I’m of two minds about Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.  It’s a story filled with hope and faith and love.  Scenes popped into my mind over the past week: charming scenes, funny scenes (these generally with Kristin Scott Thomas or Conleth Hill).  And yet it left me with mixed feelings, and one of those feelings was annoyance.

The basic story of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is absurd — a Yemeni Sheikh with a really obscene amount of money, a desert stronghold at home, a mansion in Scotland, and a British investment firm, wants to create a river in his desert home and stock it with cold-water-loving salmon.  
(C) 2012 CBS Films

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has marvelous acting throughout, from Amr Waked as the Sheikh (his warmth and gentle philosophizing make him an enormously likeable man); Emily Blunt as Harriet Chetwode-Talbot, who works for the investment company that manages the Sheikh’s money and will move heaven and earth to get him what he wants; Tom Mison as her cute boyfriend, Captain Robert Mayers; Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alfred Jones, a fisheries expert having an adventure or a mid-crisis; the brilliant Kristin Scott Thomas as Patricia Maxwell, press secretary to the Prime Minister, with whom she communicates by texting; Conleth Hill as Bernard Sugden, the hapless, not noticeably competent middle manager Dr. Jones works for; and Rachael Stirling as Dr. Jones’ wife Mary.

Yes, wife.  All those snippets and hints of two people falling in love in the trailers — he’s married, and she’s dating a soldier. 

Reeling in at a little over an hour and a half, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a sweet, smooth film in which everything rotten in the world is softened with faith or humor.  Images of salmon swimming upstream to spawn are dropped in throughout the film, but they’re about more than salmon.  They can signify a brainstorm from a dyed-in-the-wool scientist who thinks the Sheikh’s idea is ridiculous. 
Amr Waked and Ewan McGregor in Scotland (c) 2012 CBS Films

These swimming scenes are also about DNA.  Dr. Jones’ marriage is companionable, quiet, they’re good friends — they just may be in a slump when it comes to passion. Then Dr. Jones starts falling for Ms. Chetwode-Talbot.  That’s when the “DNA” comes into play — if it’s in the salmon’s DNA to swim upstream to spawn even if they’ve never been in a stream because they’ve been farmed for generations, then it’s also in the human male’s DNA to move on from the wife of his own age to seek a new, younger mate with whom to procreate. 

Men stray because of DNA.  Swell.

Dr. Jones starts off on this madcap project because he’s forced to — he’s a government employee, something having to do with fisheries and lake fishing and all sorts of fishing — and press agent Patricia needs a good story from the Middle East.  What better than transforming a bit of desert and stocking its river with hardy Scottish fish.  Dr. Jones takes the requisite meetings, not taking them at all seriously.  He extemporaneously lists obstacles to the Sheikh’s notion, what unreachable contrivances would be required to overcome those obstacles, creating a seemingly valid plan to fulfill the Sheikh’s dream.  Ms. Chetwode-Talbot follows up on his off-the-cuff suggestions, and lo, the project is real. These scenes between Blunt and McGregor are absolutely charming.  They make it work.
Despite the skill of these actors, everything about this film’s plot is absurd, so no time should be allowed for the audience to contemplate the inconsistencies and ill-defined time frame.  The story focuses more on the slowly building, sweet love story between Dr. Jones and Ms. Chetwode-Talbot.  And perhaps, just perhaps, allows the audience a little too much time to think.

It’s a pretty fantasy and I enjoyed living in it for 100-odd minutes.  Exploring the fascination with fish — fishing, flies (not the buzzing kind, the kind fly fishermen make to put on their hooks), this lifestyle that can make strangers into lifelong BFFs — was a lark.  The passion that anglers of the United Kingdom felt and acted upon was one of the high points of the film for me.  The ugly real world intrudes a few times, not humorously, but all is forgiven, at least by the Sheikh.  Luckily for the audience, most of the time the ugly world is Kristin Scott Thomas’s job, and she makes it bearable by making it funny.  Sweet scenes live on in my memory.  And then I get annoyed when I remember the writer’s theory of “biological imperative.”  You can always tell a man’s going to leave his wife when he tells a younger woman that he and his wife married very young. 
Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor in the Yemen (c) 2012 CBS Films.
 So, the movie is leisurely, warm, romantic, its characters engaging.  It is beautifully filmed, with claustrophobic workplace and city scenes, traveling to the extraordinary Scottish mansion with its cold river naturally stocked with salmon to the vast desert of the Sheikh’s homeland that he’s trying to fill with a cold-water fish.  The Sheikh loves fishing.  It’s not just about standing hip-deep in cold water, though.  It’s clearly very zen.  This immense, impossible project, if at all feasible, would bring in immediate and future employment to his people (which clearly frightens and angers some of them), not to mention beauty and the potential peace of a bunch of people fishing.  It is, after all, a quiet sport.  It’s a daft idea, to run a river from a dam and fill it with a cold-loving northern fish.  But maybe, just maybe, it’s mad enough to work.

Kristin Scott Thomas is sharp, cruelly funny, and quite wonderful.  Ewan McGregor keeps growing into his leading man status as a mature, interesting, and attractive actor.  Emily Blunt is a pleasure to watch, not just because she’s pretty: her face is mobile, her moods run through her entire body, and she’s just a charmer. 

Lasse Hallström directed Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay (based on Paul Torday’s novel of the same name) smoothly, eliciting witty performances across the board.  Everyone did their jobs very well, especially if the job was to irk me.  No, really, it’s a fun movie in most ways.  Just that one little thing….

~ Molly Matera, signing off to go outside on a gorgeous spring day, but not to stand hip deep in a river. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thoughts on Two Nights in the Theatre

Last week I saw an invited dress rehearsal for Nice Work If You Can Get It, a “new” musical now in previews at the Imperial Theatre.  I wasn’t going to write anything about it, because what I saw was a dress rehearsal.  Then I discovered that people who hadn’t seen even the rehearsal were bad-mouthing the play.  Apparently some fool had posted a little video of a number in rehearsal and the grumpy people hadn’t liked what they’d seen.  Whoever decided to post a rehearsal video before the show opened should be fired for stupidity.

Happily, since the first previews, more accurate descriptions of the play have appeared online.  What I have to say about the dress rehearsal was that Nice Work If You Can Get It is…well... s’wonderful, s’marvelous, hilarious, ridiculous. If you stop laughing long enough to think, you can say, “This is a black-&-white1930s movie musical and just as absurd, except it’s live and in color.” Even thinking that much is more than you’d have time for.  There was one point I was laughing so hard that my friend thought I was going to have a fit.  Speaking of fits, the theatre seats are as tightly crammed together as passengers on a Tokyo subway.  We were all so cramped that I couldn’t reach the floor to roll on it laughing. 

The dancers are brilliant doing terrific, exhilarating numbers, the choreography is gorgeous. Settings are funny, practical, imaginative.  The costuming is sublime. Orchestrations and orchestra are perfect.  And it’s all Gershwin, for goodness’ sake.  

The bad news:  It ran a bit long (close to three hours with a 15 minute intermission), but it’ll tighten up as the preview weeks teach the marvelous director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall what’s slowing it down.  I, of course, have my opinions on what must be cut, but I’ll wait to see what the professional does.  What I saw, after all, was still a rehearsal, the company’s first in front of an audience. 

I look forward to seeing the play again in 3-4 weeks, and see what changes have been wrought.  What I’ll never understand about the naysayers is how anyone could be anything other than deliriously happy during three hours of Gershwin.  S’madness.


Last night Horvendile and I saw Simon Callow in a new piece by Jonathan Bates called Being Shakespeare.  It was a very enjoyable evening in which Simon Callow told tales of Shakespeare’s life structured on Shakespeare’s own Seven Ages of Man. The scene appeared spare and yet it was very well thought out and decorated.  All elements of the design were marvelous, from the lighting by Bruno Poet, the scenic design and use of the space (design and direction by Tom Cairns), music and sound by Ben & Max Ringham were terrific, and then there were the trees.  It was a credit I’d noticed in the program before the play began, “Trees by Green Mile Trees,” which confused me.  But those trees deserve the notice:  some frightening and foreboding, some simple and comforting. 

I enjoyed Callow (although he sometimes swallowed the end of his words, and at others spoke so quickly in obscure accents that I’d no idea what he said, unless I already knew the particular bit of Shakespeare), the pacing was quite good, and there was enough actual Shakespeare to please.  Thing is, I don’t believe I could call Being Shakespeare a play.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a highly theatrical and invigorating hour and three quarters, it has a beginning: birth; and an end:  death.  Yet it was more like a very entertaining lecture than a play.  Jonathan Bates is an erudite fellow, a Shakespeare scholar, and quite interesting – I look forward to reading his prose.  But I’m afraid he’s not a playwright.  Nonetheless, if you’re in the mood for some history mixed with your Shakespeare, Being Shakespeare is playing at the BAM Harvey this and next weekend.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shakespeare in Frontierville

A rip-roaring production of The Taming of The Shrew opened this weekend at the Duke Theatre on 42nd Street.  Theatre for a New Audience brings us back to the old west to experience a rollicking, jolly, remarkably American production of Shakespeare’s controversial comedy.
(c) Theatre for a New Audience

Director Arin Arbus reins in the 16th century European setting to the 19th century western frontier.  The scene is familiar, warm brown wood flooring and walls, beams going every which way on doors, shutters, a balcony.  The two-storied set by by Donyale Werle is classical in style, yet like “Frontiersville” in nature.  Anita Yavich’s costumes wrap natural hues around the company, appearing at once timeless and settled in the wild west.  As the audience enters a plinking piano played throughout by Jonathan Mastro is comfortingly reminiscent of saloon scenes from movie westerns.  Michael Friedman’s music combines traditional western “cowboy” music with Italian opera of the period, the latter in a particularly hilarious sequence when disguised Hortensio attempts to teach Bianca to sing. 

Lighting by Marcus Doshi is atmospheric, with footlights surrounding the stage, candles hanging from above. “Effects”of the sun and moon are as they would have been created by a 19th century company.  Doug Elkins’ choreography works with the geography and the characters.

Director Arbus has chosen to maintain the blatant theatricality of the often-omitted Christopher Sly sub-plot, making Sly the town drunk tossed out of the saloon, where he can be wittily played upon by the local “lord” and a traveling theatrical troupe.  It’s a fine conceit, with Sly occasionally interrupting the proceedings, reminding us this is a play within a play we’re watching, and that everyone is someone other than who they profess to be.

Said play within the play takes place in 16th Century Padua, where Baptista (Robert Langdon Lloyd) has two daughters: The elder is called Kate the Curst, while the younger, Bianca, is wooed by gentlemen old and young.  Baptista will not allow his younger daughter to be courted until his elder is wed, so Bianca’s suitors — Hortensio (a preening, stuttering, Saxon Palmer), Gremio (John Christopher Jones plays the traditional pantaloon with sympathy and humor), and the newly arrived Lucentio (Denis Butkus) — need someone to marry Kate.  Enter Petruchio, who has come to wive it wealthily in Padua while doing a great deal of slapstick. 
Maggie Siff as Kate and Andy Grotelueschen as Petruchio (C) 2012 Henry Grossman

Lucentio and his servant Tranio exchange clothing (and pseudo-identities) onstage, each revealing long-johns.  John Keating as the devious servant Tranio, however, is taller than Lucentio, so he spends the play strutting, posing, and conspiring in pants that are too short for him.  Kathryn Saffell is an amusing and intelligent Bianca, one moment a pouting victim, the next a flirt, and finally a veritable shrew herself.  The happily ubiquitous John Pankow is excellent as Grumio, conspiratorial servant to Petruchio and his partner in slapstick.

In this production, the titular Kate was clearly a tomboy just a few years ago.  She is now rangy and tough and no-nonsense.  It is perfectly clear only fools or liars come to court, for they really only want her soft and feminine little sister.  This Kate is an unrepresented, disrespected woman that weaker men wish to repress.  She’s funny, she’s sharp, she’s a little scary:  I half expected her to draw a derringer — or maybe a bullwhip.  She is personified perfectly by Maggie Siff.  In most of Shakespeare’s plays, the witty, wordsmithing woman is silenced after her marriage.  Not so Kate.  Once she is “tamed,” she has a long speech instructing women how to deal with their men, and thereby how to live in the world.  It’s not a swell world, but it’s the only one they’ve got.  The men in Kate’s world are dainty, where she is dauntless.  It takes a wild fellow named Petruchio to choose a highly imaginative method of wooing in order to tame.  This bold and bawdy man is played rather like a rich rancher’s son, but not a bad guy — a Cartwright, perhaps.  He’ll work his land, but he’s used to having money and wants it.  Andy Grotelueschen is a charming, tough yet thoughtful Petruchio, whose bravado can be seen to fade in face of his Kate.  After tempests are tossed about, quiet negotiations between this pair become surprisingly sweet love scenes you would not have imagined could appear in this play.
Andy Grotelueschen and Maggie Siff in TFANA's "The Taming of the Shrew"  (c) 2012 Gerry Goodstein

Theatre For A New Audience has brought together a fine, highly skilled company of players. There was really only one actor who seemed apart from the rest, not for lack of enthusiasm.

Shakespeare is quite at home in the American west, having toured through its mining towns, from tents to shanties to young cities, in dance halls, saloons and bona fide theatres — or the open air.  Ms. Arbus has set this production just where The Taming of the Shrew belongs.  The play runs at the Duke until April 21.  If you’re in town, go.  If you’re not, come visit.  (