The Taming of the Shrew
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Stephen Underwood

Director James Dunn’s Wild West version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew may be the perfect venue for this high-energy comedy. “The England of Shakespeare’s time was parallel in lifestyle to the Old West,” said Dunn. “It was a time of expansion, of adventure, a time of great heroes and equally great villains. Shakespeare’s characters and plots are as lusty and brawling as any in Frontier America – and as full-blooded and larger-than-life as their Western counterparts. I found the right material when I found The Taming of the Shrew. The characters and plot of this play had been derived by Shakespeare from the old Roman comedies and the stock characters of the commedia dell’arte. As I read the play, it occurred to me that these same stock characters could be matched with the stock characters of the Western movie. Petruchio became the swaggering cowboy hero. Kate a Calamity Jane, Baptista the town marshal and so on down the line.”

Shakespeare’s shrew, Katherine, a tomboyish independent woman who tears through men like a female Tasmanian Devil is the perfect transformation for the daughter of the town sheriff Baptista (Robert Currier). His oldest daughter, the sheriff is determined to marry Kate (Marcia Pizza) off before he gives away the hand of her very feminine sister Bianca (Laurie Keith). But is there a man wild enough to tame her or at least appreciate her six-gun-blazing, whip-cracking ways? Enter Petruchio (Paul Sulzman) to take on the challenge.

Much of Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted to other time periods and venues, but this is one of the smoothest and most fun adaptations I’ve ever seen. Apparently I’m not alone. Since Dunn first drew on this gun slinging version at College of Marin in 1970, the play has toured in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Santa Monica CA at the Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts, at San Francisco’s Cannery Theatre, at Monterey Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center Theatre Company and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego CA.

It’s amazing how well Shakespeare’s words flow when spoken with a cowboy twang. So wear your snakeskin boots with the spurs on and come on down to Marin Shakespeare Company’s outdoor theatre at Dominican University in San Rafael and prepare to have a stomping good time.

For tickets or more information call (415) 499-4488 or visit www.marinshakespeare.org.

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