Theater review: Innovation gives 'Shrew' great new life

    This definitely ain’t your mother’s Shakespeare; the Eveoke Dance Theatre’s “”Taming of the Shrew”” is Shakespeare with a twist. While embracing all the humor and bawdy antics that were originally intended, director Gina Angelique uses gender reversal to fulfill her Shakespearean vision. Joined by a minimalist set design and intimate theater space, Eveoke creates a unique theatrical experience.

    In the show, gender reversal doesn’t mean that the actors are in drag. With just one exception, men play men in the women’s roles while women play women in the men’s roles, all without changes to the text with respect to gender references.

    In the Italian city of Padua, there are two sisters: the beautiful, sweet Bianca, and the saucy shrew Kate. Their father won’t allow anyone to court Bianca before the elder Kate is married off. The various suitors scheme and philander in their quest, and in the end true love emerges where least expected.

    There are two additional characters, Girl and Boy Gender, portrayed by dancers Elizabeth Marks and Anthony Rodriguez. These silent characters open each section of the piece, reflecting the emotional turmoil of the genders through modern dance sequences. They remain onstage throughout, incorporating themselves into the scenes.

    The show runs through Dec. 1 at downtown’s Sushi Performance & Visual Art facility. This informal theater is a large, open room with a stage space in the center, surrounded by plastic chairs that are thankfully more comfortable than they appear. All the actors remain in the room throughout the performance lined up along the back wall behind the stage. Since the audience is always able to see the performers, they continue acting even while offstage. This gives the show a multidimensional aspect, since those offstage play off the action onstage.

    To emphasize the text of the play, very few design elements are used. Aside from a few smaller props, the only sets are two benches that are moved to represent furniture, walls and other objects. All the actors are dressed in similar costumes, with the women in dresses and the men in slacks, accented by individual elements.

    Due to this conservative set, the actors are forced to rely on the text itself. The cast members make amazing use of their entire bodies to evoke the sentiments of those words. Running the gamut from rage to playful innuendo, the actors charge the tiny space with emotion.

    Liv Kellgren’s portrayal of Petruchio is daring and well-executed. The statuesque actress towers over Tim Wild as Kate, which creates a physical gender reversal that further emphasizes the new roles. Kellgren’s wild characterization is both funny and intimidating, allowing for a new outlook on a very chauvinistic character.

    The show’s lesser characters are also very entertaining. Most notably, Wendy Waddell as Tranio, the servant who is posing as a nobleman, evokes hilarious body language and attitude that illuminates the minor role.

    “”Taming of the Shrew”” is one of many variations on the Shakespearean classic, but Eveoke’s cast makes this one shine. The production is both interesting and hilarious in its manipulation of gender stereotypes. Even the Bard himself would be amused. The show is curently running through Dec. 1. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $18 for adults under 65. Thursdays and Sundays are “”Pay What You Can”” nights. Tickets can be purchased at the box office one hour before the show. For more information, call the Eveoke Dance Theatre at (619) 238-1153.

    Taming of the Shrew

    Starring Tim Wild, Liv Kellgren and Wendy Waddell

    At Eveoke Dance Theatre

    (619) 238-1153

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