Theater review: ‘Katie the Curst’ at Media Park


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In ‘Katie the Curst,’ the Actors’ Gang gives ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ a 1970s punk-rock twist that makes this fifth installment of free, family-friendly Shakespeare adaptations outside the Ivy Substation a loose-limbed lark.

Carnival festivity emanates from the outset, as popcorn and hot dog vendors scour the audience seated on the Media Park grounds before a sideshow tent. Presently, a blast of Nino Rota from sound designer Peter Bayne launches the heavily trimmed narrative.


Director Lisa Wolpe uses the natural setting judiciously, smartly bending the Bard around her talented cast. Donna Jo Thorndale’s full-throttle Kate, aptly introduced with Joan Jett’s ‘Bad Reputation,’ spurs Jean-Louis Darville’s suave, leisure-suited Petruchio, whose bicycling entrance in tandem with R.J. Jones’ rambunctious Grumio typifies the frolicsome attack.
As does Nick Huff’s zany Lucentio, his disco poses mirrored by Adam Jefferis’ acrobatic Tranio and Molly O’Neill’s Mademoiselle-magazine-cover Bianca. Pedro Shanahan wields a mean mosh-pit guitar as Hortensio; Adele Robbins devours various characters, her Ed Grimley-skewed Gremio a particular hoot; and so goes the roster, with Jorge Deneve’s grave Biondello fronting a charming brace of child players.

Costumer Allison Leach’s loopy outfits are another asset, as in Petruchio’s mega-punk wedding ensemble or Kate’s post-marital ‘Dynasty’ horror, tailor-made for deconstruction.

The picnic-grounds approach contends with street noise and malfunctioning mikes, while the pop-cultural mash-up adorns a laundered Cliff’s Notes version of the text. Yet one can imagine many less worthwhile ways to spend an hour on a weekend. At base, ‘Katie the Curst’ is just plain, unpretentious fun.

-- David C. Nichols

‘Katie the Curst,’ Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Ends Aug. 29. Free. (310) 838-4264. Running time: 1 hour.

[For the record: An earlier version of this review misspelled sound designer Peter Bayne’s last name.}