Shakespeare shows his age in Aquarius Players‘s The Taming of the Shrew playing at St. George the Martyr Courtyard as part of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival.
Lucentio (Michael Pearson) has decided he will wed Bianca (Greta Whipple). With the help of his servant Tranio (Paige Madsen) he sets a plan in motion to whoo her. Unfortunately, Bianca can only be wed if her older sister, the ‘shrewish’ Kate (Alexandra Milne), is married first. Thus enters Petruchio (Chris Coculuzzi), who decides he will tame the shrew.
Set outside, moving from location to location, we follow a series of misadventures and escapades in the name of romance. There is definitely a lot of comedy to be found in Coculuzzi’s adaptation of the original text.
On the whole, the cast is well aware of the difficulties of a play that is essentially about abusing a woman mentally and physically into servitude. Director Nicole Arends has her cast lean hard into absurdity through slapstick violence and over-the-top reactions.
And it definitely helps. Whipple as Bianca gets some hilarious bratty behaviour in contrast to Milne’s exaggerated nastiness (done through a perpetual sneer that softens gradually over the course of events, a lovely character touch). Whenever someone appears to witness their fights, Bianca’s extreme yowls of distress become a mockery of her sister behind her saviour’s back.
And the servants! Madsen, with Elaine O’Neal as Grumio and Christina Leonard as Biondello, are the show-stealers. Not only is their physical comedy on point–see O’Neal’s attempt at fisticuffs–but all three of them deliver the best lines of the afternoon.
But I found that The Taming of the Shrew is still a straight-up uncomfortable play to watch in this day and age. Personally, I could barely watch Petruchio play his games with Kate, despite Colcuzzi and Milne’s undeniable chemistry.
If I had to sum up my feelings it would be that the cast throws everything they’ve got into making The Taming of the Shrew work, but the source material is, despite these efforts, still a modern-day disappointment.
- The Taming of the Shrew plays at St. George the Martyr. (197 John St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 7:00 pm
- Thursday July 4th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 5th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 2:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 2:00 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 7:00 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 7:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 12th, 7:00 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 2:00 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 2:00 pm
Photo of Chris Coculuzzi and Alexandra Milne by Kathy Plamondon