The Taming of the Shrew is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I jump at the chance to see it performed, but I’ve never quite seen one like Aquila Theatre’s production for the Encore series last night.
They stuck to the story. There didn’t seem to be any variation or straying from Shakespeare’s original play besides it was modernized a bit. Characters dressed in modern clothes, it was located in a modern-day setting and, of course, one of the male characters was female.
Yes, yes, one of the main characters, Lucentio — or Lucentia as she was called — was a female. If you don’t know the story, Lucentio falls in love at first sight with the younger of two sisters, Bianca. But Bianca can’t get married until her sister, Katherine “the cursed”, gets married first.
Katherine is the shrew of the story. She’s not nicknamed “the cursed” for nothing. She’s mean and hard-headed, so most think she’ll never be tamed. But one man, Petruchio, comes along and marries Katherine and tames her by depriving her of sleep and food, which allows Lucentio to marry Bianca.
First of all, I have nothing against gay people. I support gay marriage. One of my best friends is gay. So my problem with changing Lucentio into Lucentia is not based on hate for lesbians.
I have a problem with it because it just didn’t work. It was odd to see a female in the place of Lucentio’s part. The biggest oddity was in the final scene when Petruchio, Lucentia and Hortensio — another lover of Bianca who ends up marrying a widow — make a bet to see whose wife is the most obedient because wives are to be submissive to their husbands, females are to be submissive to males.
Who is to decide which one is the husband and which one is the wife with Lucentia and Bianca’s relationship? Neither is male, so the joke about females being submissive to males just didn’t work in this instance.
Was Lucentia chosen to be the male in the relationship simply because she pretended to be a male the whole play? That’s another issue with her being female. Why the heck did she pretend to be male until the wedding? Bianca knew she was female of course, but no one else did. Why was that necessary? Just keep her female if she’s going to be a female role.
I can see why Aquila Theatre changed the roll of Lucentio to female. They’re being modern, keeping up with the times, and they’re trying to appeal to the gay crowd. Gay rights has been a huge thing in the United States lately. But I think if I were gay, I would almost find Lucentia offensive. In a way, Aquila is catering to the gay crowd and singling them out. It’s the same as changing a gay couple to a straight couple. There’s no need to change classic literature to appease someone.
Maybe I’m just a grouch because they changed Shakespeare. Yes, I’m one of those people. I hate it when major things are changed when transitioning from book to movie. I can understand slight things here and there, but major parts, not okay. So I hate it that they changed Shakespeare. This play wasn’t an adaptation of Shakespeare like 10 Things I Hate About You or Kiss Me, Kate. You don’t just go around changing sexes.
Other than that, Aquila Theatre did an adequate job. The production was small. I expected there to be a bigger stage setup and enough cast to cover all the roles. Instead, the stage was minimalistic at best and several actors played two roles.
Their acting was fantastic though. Some of their facial expressions made the scene, especially Katherine’s, played by Angela Christofilou, and Petruchio’s, played by James Bellorini. At one point, Bellorini pulled an audience member up on stage to play Lucentia’s father. That was absolutely the funniest scene of the entire production — sorry, you had to be there.
Unfortunately, that scene happened after intermission, and most people weren’t there to see it. Just an estimate, but I bet half of the audience left at intermission. Why? I can only speculate. It was Shakespeare. Several people can’t understand it. They were old and needed to go to bed, or they didn’t like the lesbian couple.
Let’s face it — this is Hays, Kan. It’s one of the most conservative places I have ever been. Seeing as how most of the audience members were community members and not college students, I can’t believe a lesbian couple would fly with most of them. No offense, Hays, but you know it’s true.
However, I am still appalled that half the audience would get up and leave at intermission. Do we have no appreciation for the arts?
Aquila Theatre’s production of The Taming of the Shrew didn’t meet my expectations, but all-in-all, they did a pretty good job. It’s hard to ruin a good story.