Play by play: November 6, 2009

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  November 4, 2009

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW | What makes this Actors’ Shakespeare outing — which is set in a contemporary working-class bar — spark and sizzle, and then grow tender, is the way the famed battle of the sexes between Benjamin Evett’s mercenary Petruchio and Sarah Newhouse’s wildcat Kate is a mutually enjoyable sex game from the get-go. It takes a while for this 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. 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. | Downstairs at the Garage, 38 JFK St, Cambridge | 866.811.4111 | Through November 15 | Curtain 10 am + 7:30 pm [November 5] or 8 pm [November 12] Thurs | 7:30 pm [November 6] or 8 pm [November 13] Fri | 3 pm [November 7] + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $47; $38 seniors; $25 students

VALET OF THE DOLLS | Russ Meyer isn’t the only one shameless enough to go Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans have gotten their hands on the 1967 celluloid camp classic based on Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel and inserted enough broad, raunchy farce into its lurid tale of nice girls done in by sex, show biz, and barbiturates that the hilariously over-the-top show might as well be titled Pillzapoppin! From the Dory Previn theme song to the bathroom dunking of Helen Lawson’s here flaming pompadour of a wig, Landry knows when not to improve on the original. But in his version, genteel Anne Welles — who achieves fame as spokesmodel for a national chain of parking lots — has a nasty case of Tourette’s syndrome, buxom Jennifer North gets third-degree burns from a dust-up with nasty sister-in-law Miriam’s much-invoked lasagna, and drug-addled Neely O’Hara’s big number is called “My Baby Ain’t Circumcised.” As in most Orphans outings, James P. Byrne’s production is low-budget but elaborate, with multiple costumes and props, cut-out cartoon scenery, and a singing, dancing, sex-simulating cast of dozens, several of whom are Muppets. Landry makes hay of the aging-diva Susan Hayward role, and the “Homewrecker” with whom Neely spouse Ted Casablanca cavorts is played by a dog. A hard-knock life indeed. | Machine, 1254 Boylston St, Boston |www.brownpapertickets.com| Through November 22 | Curtain 8 pm Fri-Sat | 5 pm Sun | $35

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISSOCIA | “If you like Alice in Wonderland, but there’s not enough sex and violence in it, then Dissocia is the show for you” is how edgy British playwright Anthony Neilson describes his fantasy, in which Lisa Jones is trying to recover a critical lost hour in her life and wondering whether the “curious inhabitants” of Dissocia will be inclined to help. Emerson grad Philana Mia stars as Lisa; Danielle Fauteux Jacques directs. | Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnissimet St, Chelsea | 617.887.2336 | Through November 29 | Curtain 8 pm Fri-Sat | 3 pm Sun [November 22, 29] | $25 advance; $30 doors

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