The summertime tradition of Shakespeare in the park is truly delightful. This year The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theatre (TRIST) presents Taming of the Shrew at the Roger Williams Memorial, North Main Street, Providence. Directed by Bob Colonna, this production is great entertainment for a summer’s eve. Colonna directs with an eye for the outdoor space, and knows how to make the most of his actors’ strengths in this lively battle of the sexes.
As usual, there are some accommodations made to the text for the outdoor venue. The characters all bear some resemblance to those often found on Federal Hill in Providence. Colonna does double-duty, donning the drag apparel of Mama Baptista Minola. In Shakespeare’s time, this was the tradition, since women were not allowed to perform. Colonna’s portrayal of the elder lady is hysterical, which adds an extra dimension to the comedy.
Taking care of her daughters’ future, the wealthy Mama Baptista decrees that the elder sister Katarina (Cherylee Dumas) must be wed before the younger sister Bianca (Jackie Aguirre). Bianca has many suitors because she is gracious, humble and beautiful. Katarina, on the other hand, is fair of face, yet foul-mouthed, loud, aggressive and stubborn. Katarina has already driven off a number of potential suitors.
A newcomer to the region, Lucentio (Patrick Connelly) arrives with his sister Tranio (Lauren Annicelli) to study, but puts that pursuit aside when he is smitten by the image of the fair Bianca. He soon learns that he must not only get in line to court Bianca, but he must help plan to marry off Katarina first. Meanwhile, two local suitors, Gremio (Geoff White) and Hortensio (Andrew Conley), argue over Bianca. Nearly everyone ends up in disguise to attain their desires.
Thickening the plot further is the arrival of Hortensio’s friend Petruchio (David Kane), a brash, spirited young man in search of a wife. He is accompanied by his loyal servant Grumio (Justin Paige). Petruchio proclaims his desire to marry into a wealthy family and cares not what the demeanor of the potential bride may be. Of course, Hortensio recommends Katarina. Sight unseen, Petruchio vows to marry Kate no matter what. Comedy chaos ensues.
Colonna has assembled a wonderful troupe of players who carry a high level of energy throughout the play, and make good use of the physical space of the Roger Williams Memorial. A striped cabana, a bench and a picnic table are all they need along with their skills to engage the audience. We even enjoy the arrival of the reputed capo Don Vincenzo (Mark Carter), whose name brings trepidation to all who hear it. Rounding out the band of merry players are The Widow (Nicole Pellegrino), the Tailor (Simone Pelligrino) and the Haberdasher (Anika Poshkus). Stage Manager is Kat Brown.
David Kane and Cherylee Dumas give terrific performances as the leads Petruchio and Katarina. But there is not a slouch in the bunch as the story flies by in the night, undeterred by an ambulance or firetruck siren. Admission is FREE. Performance starts at 8pm, Thursday through Sunday nights through June 5.