The Taming of the Shrew: Theater review by David Cote
If you think Shakespeare’s battle-of-the-sexes comedy is a laugh riot, there may be something wrong with you. Willful and hot-tempered Paduan maid Katherina (Cush Jumbo) is brought to heel by physical and mental torture devised by her bully of a husband, Petruchio (Janet McTeer). The Taming of the Shrew is a breezy tale about breaking a woman’s spirit for the good of the patriarchy. Even Othello and The Merchant of Venice try to complicate their racist plots. Shrew is thoroughly amusing to only a certain type of man.
Cue the Donald Trump–style voiceover. Director Phyllida Lloyd frames her all-female, super-ironic production as the “Miss Lombardy” beauty pageant. “One of these girls is going to take home a yooge prize,” gloats the announcer. One interesting effect of casting all women (and what women—the cast is packed with talented pros and newbies) is the partial suspension of unease over seeing females objectified, monetized and trained like animals. It lets the comedy do its work, and a lusty, charismatic actor like McTeer can swagger about like the rock star she is. Jumbo is appropriately fierce. Judy Gold and Donna Lynne Champlin play suitors of Katherina’s sister, Bianca (Gayle Rankin), making merely serviceable roles throb with humor and outsize machismo (plus comedian Gold throws in a few fresh jokes). The overall effect is a Shrew that is subversive, sexy and, most of all, funny. Genuinely funny. Maybe there is something wrong with us; this election year, we’ll work on it.—David Cote
Delacorte Theater (Shakespeare in the Park). By William Shakespeare. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs. No intermission.
Tickets are free (two per person) and may be picked up only on the day of performance after noon at the Delacorte Theater. A limited number of tickets are also distributed via online lottery; see our complete guide to Shakespeare in the Park for details.
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