Back in 1590, when Shakespeare wrote "The Taming of the Shrew," it was a lively romp, full of sexual politics. Now Synetic Theater has updated and amped up the play to reflect contemporary society, where the paparazzi chase beautiful people everywhere and where success or wealth guarantees a continual retinue of hangers-on. Its message about personal value and privacy is sharper than ever before.
In the story of a father, Baptista, who must marry off his headstrong daughter, Katherine, before he marries off his more passive daughter, Bianca, Shakespeare used bribery to get his narrative rolling. Here, too, the fashion designer Baptista (Hector Reynoso) bribes an artist, Petruchio (Ryan Sellers), to marry Katherine (Irina Tsikurishvili).
And Shakespeare's basic structure remains: Petruchio is late to his own wedding; he leaves without his bride; when he comes back and whisks her away on his motorcycle, he strands her in the country. When she struggles home, Petruchio creates a wedding feast at which everyone but the bride may eat.
|'Taming of the Shrew'|
|Where: Lansburgh Theatre, 450 Seventh St. NW|
|When: Through April 22|
|Info: $15 to $65; 202-547-1122; synetictheater.org|
But while Shakespeare concludes his play with Katherine agreeing that wives should always obey their husbands, Synetic gives the play a nice modern twist, so that the issues of obedience and independence never arise. Thus Synetic avoids the major pitfall any artistic troupe falls into when producing the play in the 21st century.
At the end of this "Taming of the Shrew," it's not browbeating that wins Kate over. Coming to return his wedding ring, Kate sees all the beautiful portraits of her Petruchio has painted and realizes that he in fact adores her. The spectacular paint fight Petruchio and Kate engage in near the end is an exquisite Technicolor expression of love.
As Katherine, Tsikurishvili is stunning, both in her role as angry woman and as reconciled wife. As she sits on the lip-shaped sofa in Act One, mourning the death of her mother, her anger seems not the least bit outrageous. Everywhere she goes with her father and sister (Irina Kavsadze), there are people with cameras taking their picture, allowing them no rest.
As Petruchio, Sellers is a brilliant match for this Kate, an artist who seduces her with his art, rather than with rich gifts. The ensemble, which does some sensational hip-hop dancing and acrobatics, is beautifully choreographed by Tsikurishvili. Alex Mills performs extraordinary dance/gymnastic turns, as does Vato Tsikurishvili.
Intelligently adapted and directed by Paata Tsikurishvili, this slick, fast-paced and funny "Taming of the Shrew" must be considered as important to the Silent Shakespeare canon as the tragedies.