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Arts and Entertainment

Shrewd Adaptation

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Long before Sami Brady, Erica Cane or Amanda Woodward sudsed their way into our pop culture, Shakespeare's headstrong shrew, Katharina, reigned supreme. Why all the bad soap references? Well, Shakespeare's plays essentially were mini soap operas. In The Taming of the Shrew, he gave us catfights, swapped identities, love triangles and more innuendoes than you could shake a stick at... wait, that came out wrong.

It's surprising then, that L.A. seems too hip to take on Shakespeare. Last night, LAist attended a special presentation of Taming of the Shrew at The Muse Theatre in Hollywood. We jumped at the opportunity to see something that wasn't a concert or movie screening. The only thing that disappointed us is that the cozy theatre wasn't packed.

LAist knows it's hard to sell the archaic dialogue. Moreover, updating a classic tale (a la Romeo + Juliet) is often a tricky affair. But the great acting in Much Ado About Nothing helped make it one of LAist's favorite adaptations. The same was true of Taming Of the Shrew.

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We were impressed by all the little details in Lars Tatom's adaptation. Yes, characters spoke in archaic vernacular. But they weren't clad in stuffy clothing. They wore diesel jeans, tempered sunglasses and designer sneakers. Subtle references to the Santa Ana winds, the inclusion of LA Weekly magazine and other West Coast references made us laugh. From the faux "A++" restaurant rating posted at the back of the stage, to the creative use of the theatre space, the direction and set design were balanced perfectly.

The acting, however, is what sealed the deal. Passionate and physical performances by Jessica Green (Kate) and Joseph J. Pearlman (Petruchio) kept our attention. With only 2 weeks of rehearsal, the choreographed fights between the two were executed with aplomb. Likewise, Green's ability to ad-lib when props failed added a bit of playfulness to the role.

Why should you see this? LAist thinks the bard still has street cred and relevance. He attacked social issues of his day, exposing the rather carnal underbelly of the human psyche. Taming Of The Shrew illustrates how far feminism has progressed. Today Kate would likely turn in her husband for spousal abuse. But, despite the obvious chauvinism built into the story, the character Kate gets the final laugh. After being ridiculed the entire play, she reemerges as a strong character at the end. We'd like to see a modern re-interpretation where Kate turns the table and tames Petruchio. Hollywood... are you listening?

In the meantime, catch this classic before it disappears. The play runs for three weeks, August 12 - 27.

The Muse Theatre
6470 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038.
Thursday - Saturday at 8 p.m. & Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15
(818) 752-9080