The Golden West College program reads "A Taming of the Shrew." A hint of an interpretation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew"? A post-mod slant on the text? A grand experiment as only our colleges can afford--and dare--to do?
Would it were so. Better a grand, botched experiment than this stolid, juiceless "Shrew." What should be impassioned is spoken by rote. What should be an amusing clash of wills and the sexes is a pale exercise. What should be fun is almost uniformly boring.
Most troubling, there is the lingering impression of student actors who might not really understand the depth and import of what their characters are saying. In Shakespeare, this problem is easy to spot, and it begins with delivery.
Ironically, in a play that rankles more than a few feminists, it is Erin Granahan's Katherine who comes across as a realized and passionate character. While Granahan expresses Kate's stake in the situation, too many of her colleagues sound like they're only fulfilling requirements in their major.
Indeed, Granahan's interesting, modulated performance is even more notable for her having to play off of Jim Slabacheski's wooden Petruchio. Although one of Shakespeare's thinnest central roles, Petruchio has a clear mission--to snare a wife, specifically Kate, and to make a statement for peaceful, patriarchal family life. Slabacheski's Petruchio seems only intent on looking good by standing tall, feet wide apart, hands on hips.
The huge, missing ingredient here is, in a word, conviction, a quality young actors can only go so far in conveying. College Shakespeare requires a strong director, which Charles Mitchell emphatically is not.
"Shrew's" many bits of comic business (the silly Lucentio subplot, Kate's food deprivation, the banquet finale) barely elicit a chuckle here, either because the shtick is much too forced or the humor is missed. Mike Richardson usually avoids these problems as Grumio, this play's fool. Otherwise, it's a sadly laughless evening.
Golden West's theater department appears wedded to William Charles' dull, unappealing Globe Theatre-style set for its Shakespeare productions; instead of goosing up the work's Elizabethan identity, the set constricts things all the more, and it certainly doesn't help streamline this staging's start-and-stop pacing.
As with Mitchell's presentation of "Romeo and Juliet" last year, the fun, lighter side of Shakespeare--the side with which to draw new, young audiences--is turned into a dull-witted turnoff. Things should be more exciting on campus.
* "A Taming of the Shrew," Golden West College Main Theatre, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach. Tonight and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3:15 p.m. Ends Sunday. $8 and $9. (714) 895-8378. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
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Erin Granahan: Katharine
Jim Slabacheski: Petruchio
Mike Richardson: Grumio
Blake Burgard: Lucentio
Jeffery Isaak: Tranio
Rollo Sternaman: Baptista
Frank Carrera: Biondello
Roland Barajas: Gremio
Rose Saavedra: Bianca
A production by the Golden West College Fine Arts Division of the comedy by William Shakespeare, directed by Charles Mitchell. Set and lights: William Charles. Costumes: Susan Thomas Babb.