Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Delightfully ‘Shrew-d’ Lesson Under the Stars

By Guest Blogger, Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ year veteran of community theater and retired from DuPont.

DelShakes Opening Night in Rockwood Park
Full disclosure – I am a DelShakes groupie. I’ve attended every year since they started, and love everything about it: The Shakespeare factoids to read and pause as you trudge up the hill, the community picnicking, the beautiful setting. It just isn’t summer in Wilmington for me without them.

And the shows! Always good, and this year’s Taming of the Shrew is most delightfully one of the best I’ve seen. Director Samatha Bellomo and the cast expertly tackle the challenges of in-the-round staging, which draws the audience in so we feel we’re part of the action. The vibrant costumes by Kayla Speedy keep it visually interesting while helping guide us through the multiple disguises. And the outsized physical antics and perfect delivery of the Bard’s baudiest lines produce hearty belly laughs.

At its core, however, Shrew is a difficult play for modern audiences to square with gender equality. Both Producing Artistic Director David Stradley and Director Bellomo made this point in their program notes. The company’s struggle with threading that needle has really paid off, and I now see the play in an entirely new light.

Most of this challenge falls on the central pair Petruchio (Charlie DelMarcelle) and Katharina (Felicia Leicht), and they succeed.  Their first meeting crackles with breathless attraction, which launches a lovely trajectory for each character. DelMarcelle’s Petruchio is more caring and less cocky. Leicht conveys a delicate vulnerability, even longing, behind her brash exterior. From this grows genuine affection, mutual respect and desire for the others’ happiness. In this context, Katharina’s final monologue is not submission to a conqueror. It is liberation from self-imposed exile. Yeah, I admit I got a little weepy.

The relationships between masters and servants echo this genuine affection. Lucentio (Kevin Hoffmann) trusts his servant Tranio (Ife Foy) with his name and his love life. Petruchio’s poor put-upon servant Grumio (James Kern) always comes through in a pinch. In contrast, the Katharina’s sister Bianca (Tabitha Allen) proves to be disdainful under her “perfect” exterior, especially in a very funny Act 1 scene with her sister and father (Michael Gamache).

It’s a thrill to learn something new about a familiar play. It’s even better learn something new about oneself. DelShakes delivers on both, and proves once again that Shakespeare always has something to teach us. Plus, it’s just really, really fun!

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