Mars vs. Venus

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  October 28, 2009

Not that Karen, for all her sexual weaponry, stands a chance in the ring with Fox and Gould. As the former says to the latter, who briefly falls under the spell of the forces of light: “And what if this fucken’ ‘grace’ exists? It’s not for you.” Or, more pointedly: “You’re a fucken’ bought-and-paid-for whore, and you think you’re a ballerina ’cause you work with your legs?” Now that’s the adamantly rat-a-tat David Mamet we can’t resist, and he’s in full swing when Fox and Gould are snapping at each other’s balls and jugulars. Robert Pemberton, as Gould, is a smug, not unsympathetic teddy-bear king of the mountain, particularly effective when patiently, predatorily indulging Karen. But as the more desperate Fox, Gabriel Kuttner presents less a crass, nervous flunky than a passive-aggressive, almost vampiric one. With him across the desk, you half expect that when blood is loosed, the agent will be not a fist but an incisor.

Everyone in Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s The Taming of the Shrew (Downstairs at the Garage through November 8) is performing. Set in a contemporary working-class bar, the production begins with pickled tinker Christopher Sly staggering against the jukebox and passing out, whereupon the staff decide to put him to sleep and, when he wakes up, convince him he’s not Joe the Plumber but a Brattle Street patrician. To that end, the owner, waiters, and busboy, in collusion with a troupe of actors who can’t pay their tab, undertake to entertain Sly with a play: The Taming of the Shrew, in an economy-daunted incarnation in which ruffs are set off by jeans.

But it’s not the sexism-once-removed gambit that makes ASP’s the most engaging Shrew to swing fist and phoneme of late. Neither is it Sly’s decision to no longer an auditor but an actor be: bored, the spectator of honor plunges into the role of Petruchio, which he miraculously knows by heart after one or two scenes of fumbling gamely on book. This makes no sense (is Shakespeare’s shrew tamer, machismo swathed in iambic pentameter, inherent in the DNA of every male?), but it does promote a swaggering Benjamin Evett from hung-over wallpaper to the lead. No, what makes this Shrew spark and sizzle, and then grow tender, is the way the famed battle of the sexes between mercenary Petruchio and wildcat Kate is a mutually enjoyable sex game from the get-go. It takes a while for Sarah Newhouse’s turned-on if scrappily bewildered Kate to learn the rules, but she wants to play, even in the initial, enforced sparring — into which she vaults from a gymnastics bar.

Obie-winning director Melia Bensussen sees transformation as the key to Shakespeare’s comedy, and indeed, the characters, as well as the players (many in multiple roles), are all acting as well as acting out — from Sly relaxing into his better if bogus position to suitors pretending to be tutors to servants masquerading as masters to belligerent Kate trying on a new and more civil public self. Bensussen even throws in an additional transformation. The demure Bianca is played as a tall, slinky minx by a man — the graceful Ross Bennett Hurwitz, who brings ASP’s raucous evening of identity flipping and emotional sea changes to an apt conclusion when he removes his smooth flip of a hairdo and sidles up to the bar for a beer.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
Related: Play by Play: May 1, 2009, Review: Cherry Docs kicks over a hate crime, Play by Play: July 30, 2010, More more >
  Topics: Theater , Entertainment, Music, calderwood pavilion,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY CAROLYN CLAY
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   ARTSEMERSON'S METAMORPHOSIS  |  February 28, 2013
    Gisli Örn Garðarsson’s Gregor Samsa is the best-looking bug you will ever see — more likely to give you goosebumps than make your skin crawl.
  •   CLEARING THE AIR WITH STRONG LUNGS AT NEW REP  |  February 27, 2013
    Lungs may not take your breath away, but it's an intelligent juggernaut of a comedy about sex, trust, and just how many people ought to be allowed to blow carbon into Earth's moribund atmosphere.
  •   MORMONS, MURDERERS, AND MARINERS: 10 THEATER SENSATIONS COMING TO BOSTON STAGES THIS SPRING  |  February 28, 2013
    Mitt Romney did his Mormon mission in France. But there are no baguettes or croissants to dip into the lukewarm proselytizing of bumbling elders Price and Cunningham, two young men sent by the Church of Latter-day Saints to convert the unfaithful of a Ugandan backwater in The Book of Mormon .
  •   THE HUMAN STAIN: LIFE AND DEATH IN MIDDLETOWN  |  February 22, 2013
    The New York Times dubbed Will Eno a “Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”
  •   ZEITGEIST STAGE COMPANY'S LIFE OF RILEY  |  February 22, 2013
    Sir Alan Ayckbourn has written more than 70 plays, most of which turn on an intricate trick of chronology or geography.

 See all articles by: CAROLYN CLAY