Review: The Taming of the Shrew
Synetic Theater will perform the Shakespearean play through March 19
Shakespeare’s classic “The Taming of the Shrew” is reimagined in Crystal City’s Synetic Theater’s performance, running now through March 19.
Synetic Theater is your go-to for dynamic, physical theater. This particular show has no dialogue, but uses dramatised movements, interpretive dance, acrobatics and physical humor to tell the story. This was a questionable artistic choice, and makes this play anything but traditional Shakespeare.
The play begins with the father Baptiste (Irakli Kavsadze) standing in black with his two daughters Katherina (Irina Tsikurishvili) and Bianca (Nutsa Tediashvili) at what appears to be a funeral. The stage is plain, with large rectangular pillars serving as the main set design.
The scene is brief, and other characters console the three as they exit the stage. It is clear Bianca is a hot commodity in the town, as some of the men comically embrace her and kiss her hand during their exit.
Then things get a little bit odd. A fake Hollywood sign reading “Paduawood” is projected onto the set, the original setting of Padua. Baptiste is a famous fashion designer in Paduawood, and his stunning younger daughter, Bianca, is the hottest model in town.
The next few moments are a strange string of scenes during which characters break out into wild dance parties, cat walk to electronic techno music while wearing Victoria’s Secret Angel-like costumes and fawn over the fabulous Bianca. Snaps of the family in newspaper headlines are projected onto the set.
After many scenes letting the audience know how famous the family is and that Bianca is chased by every guy in town, we are brought to their home where we find that the eldest sister, Katharina, is nothing but angry and violent for no apparent reason. The two fight over everything, and it becomes apparent that women in this show are represented as either stupid and sexy or hateful and disobedient.
Though Bianca has men lining up, Baptiste must find someone to marry his eldest daughter before Bianca can be wed. He eventually sends out a notice that if someone marries his daughter, he will compensate them with a $2 million reward. Cue Petruchio (Ryan Sellers), a struggling artist looking for his muse. He comes to retrieve the bitter Katharina, who doesn’t know he’s been paid off. After a seemingly violent and uncomfortable scene, he finally gets her to agree to marry him.
And if you thought the first half of this silent play was weird, this is when things get even stranger. After the wedding, Petruchio drags Katharina away on his motorcycle, and then leaves her on the side of the road to find her way home.
She somehow manages to appear in time for dinner, and Petruchio and his army of art minions deprive her of a decent meal or drink. He then later deprives her of sleep, sex and eventually any new clothing to wear. This will supposedly “tame the shrew” -- or, in simpler terms, make her an obedient wife. Clearly Shakespeare was not big on feminism.
Many of the scenes are incredibly uncomfortable to watch, as Petruchio literally tries to force Katherina to do as he pleases. Some scenes seem wildly out of place, like when an entire table of art minions put on chicken masks to scare Katherina, or when Petruchio plays porn to turn Katherina on and then tosses her aside when she finally agrees to have sex. Other scenes follow with characters in morphsuits and more dance breaks.
Things finally become more normal after Katherina discovers Petruchio was paid off to marry her, and she runs away. But somehow through the “taming” Petruchio actually falls in love with the angry woman, and decides he must spend the next day painting glorious murals of her face and body. She eventually returns to discover the murals, and after a strange paint fight, the two fall into each other’s arms to finally sleep together.
The final scenes include more dance breaks, and a seemingly useless scene where the art minions clean up the stage post paint fight, which was clearly their only way to get the stage cleaned for the next scene.
Though the storyline was based on the original script, some plot points were missed and others were greatly expanded. This may have been due to the difficulty to convey the entire storyline without words, but the story did seem a little empty at points and characters weren’t developed particularly well.
The physical comedy was pretty impressive though, and the audience definitely laughed at points. The movement was also very modern, and generally conveyed the emotion well.
The most striking part was how sexist the entire play was. Every male character was portrayed as a girl-crazy sex addict, and every female character was stupid and sexy.
I suppose this was really Shakespeare’s doing, and the point was to make a commentary on society’s obsession with Hollywood, fashion and selfies, but they truly lost me on this one. If you’re interested in alternative art, this is definitely the play for you, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend the trip.