Pleasingly Pliable

John Beanes submissive Shrew is revolutionary in compliance

TheTamingoftheShrewis the closest Shakespeare ever came to writing a porno, and not because the lead female character is manipulated, abused and treated as chattel, or because of the ubiquitous dick jokes. It's that the entire play points toward one triumphant money shot: the speech delivered in the final moments by Kate, the eponymous shrew. The passage, one of the best written odes to submission ever penned, finds Kate—who begins the play fiery and headstrong—completely subdued, telling the married women at a wedding banquet that their husbands are their lords and governors and deserve nothing but total allegiance and devotion.

The monologue has provoked as much debate as any other in Shakespeare's canon. Could Shakespeare, the literary architect of the human soul according to Harold Bloom, have really meant this paean to patriarchy? Directors have interpreted it in scores of ways: Kate delivers it through clenched teeth; with dripping sarcasm; with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge to the audience.

Director John Beane's take in this production of Shrewwon't convince anyone that Shakespeare was anything but a chauvinistic pig. Andrea Soler leaves the stage during the speech, directly addressing the audience, and taking a great deal of time to deliver Shakespeare's words exactly as he wrote them. It's indisputable from the staging, and her sincere delivery, that this Kate believes every word she's saying.

This may rankle those who don't think a woman's place is in the kitchen, but at least it's a strong, definite choice. It may not be the choice some directors—or actors—would go with, but it's a choice nonetheless, and kudos to Beane and Co. for not trying to please everybody by soft-pedaling a speech that is, by any definition, an antiquated relic of a time when most men preferred women to be seen and not heard.

Beane is directing this show under the auspices of the Camino Real Playhouse, one of the most entrenched community theaters in the county, and it shows. The fact that the playhouse's executive director addresses the audience beforehand and then appears in character a few minutes later is indicative that this is community theater at its most community. (Like most Shakespeare productions, the ensemble ranges from solid to huh?)

It's hard to shake the impression that this isn't exactly the show Beane and company would have produced if they were in full control. Fortunately, the two principals—Soler as Kate and Mark Coyan's swaggering, eloquent Petruccio—know what they're doing. The same is true of this production. It may lack the pizzazz and chutzpah of recently produced Shrews, but it's much easier to follow and, thankfully, much shorter. And while it may not accomplish anything but continuing the debate over Shrew, Beane's version tells the story well. Sometimes that's revolutionary in and of itself.

TAMING OF THE SHREW, CAMINO REAL PLAYHOUSE, 31776 CAMINO REAL, SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, (949) 489-8082. FRI.-SUN., 7:30 P.M. THROUGH JULY 24. $14.99.

 
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