by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
Taming of the Shrew has and is ever a problematic play to justify in the modern world of feminism and the independence of women. Why would any (at least Western) female today stand for the kind of treatment accorded to Kate who in normal versions of this Shakespearean classic is often looked upon with pity as a neglected daughter and on some levels an abused wife? But add in a little bit of bondage and domination and oddly enough it all starts to make sense.
Directionally Broads’ World Theatre’s, Fifty Shades rendition, playing at the Lounge Theatre, is occasionally a bit messy and almost gets in the way although never really does. But it is nicely cast as a wholly female driven piece. And in this case, more than in many other all-female cast productions I’ve seen to date, it creates some very, very interesting and worthwhile dialog on the subject of relationships.
Whether by the fact that they are complicated, ‘feeling’, multidimensional females or just by the idea of it all, these ladies bring many more layers to the comedy than is often portrayed in a male/female circumstance.
The pre-show BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, Masochism) instructional by professional dominatrix Mistress Kara is lengthy for the actual payoff during the show. But it does offer a base for which the uninitiated can understand the lifestyle and how it is manipulated within the presentation, where which a completely inoffensive and hardly uncomfortable version of bondage and submission is displayed.
In the original, Petruchio has always given Kate “tit for tat” but here he/she gives her a little something extra. It’s the 100% playfulness of a smitten Petruchio and his absolute desire to challenge and tame a thoroughly wild Kate, in the overt acts of domination that enlivens the excessive bravado. He never actually hurts her, nor means to, emotionally or physically, but merely frustrates her and brings her to task and to life through his roughness and mildly inflicted discipline. Kate finally submitting to Petruchio adjusts the balance of power. Kate realizing that her submissiveness gives her her own power, actually gives her more. In every way she becomes a definitively equal partner and the one of Petruchio’s dreams. The relationship is more meaningful for both and a happy ending so much more palatable for us. One might even go so far as to say that Petruchio is humbled by his wife’s willingness to be “under his foot”. Kate as a submissive still retains her strong independence. Petruchio’s masculinity remains intact. It’s a very satisfying balance between them.
A superior performance and use of the text by Dawn Alden (Petruchio) matched by an equally impressive Jen Albert (Katharina/Kate).