Monday, January 18, 2016

The Taming of the Shrew

Playwright:  William Shakespeare

Venue:  The Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, Denver Colorado.

Running Time:  2 hour 40 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission) 

Date of Performance:  Sunday, January 17, 2016 (Closing night)

Lost and Found Productions is a new theater company breaking into the mature and robust Denver market.  That’s no small undertaking, but their first production, The Taming of the Shrew, proves that Lost and Found is serious about staking out its own Denver turf.

Their focus is going to be “great plays that are not done often, new works and classics with a twist.”  The Taming of the Shrew is some 400 years old, but it's not exactly "lost."  It is still produced often, despite some lingering controversy over the arguably sexist connotations of “taming” a woman.  Lost and Found, however, puts a couple of “twists” on Shakespeare's script, swapping out the gender of the characters and placing them in the 1960’s.  The women “tame” the men in Lost and Found’s version.

The gender twist is interesting, and for the most part, works fine on The Bug Theatre stage.  The tables are turned on the men, and it adds a comic perspective Shakespeare might well approve of.  Shakespeare's female characters were played by males, so the Bard was acquainted with some gender flexibility.  Even so, the domination of either sex by the other is jolting.  It adds to Shakespeare’s humor in this comedy, but as a gender politics statement, subjugating men instead of women is a dubious moral high ground.

The time shift twist to the 1960’s is a nod to the Women’s Liberation movement, but serves mostly to dress the cast in period costumes and wigs.  The Taming of the Shrew being a comedy, the period costumes punch up the humor with bright colors, outsized bell bottoms, and very big hair.  On a personal note, as one for whom the 1960’s are a personal reality as opposed to ancient history, Lisa Young’s eye popping costumes brought back some vivid memories.  
Owen Niland (Nathaniel), Allison Learned (Petruchia),  Lisa Young (Baptista).
The cast here is up to the task; Allison Learned’s Petrucchia is a bold, fearless woman who is also irresistible.  She can be very self centered, more interested in a dowry than a husband.  Owen Niland (Nathan) towers over his female cast members, emphasizing the irony of his submissiveness.  Chelsea Rossetto’s Hortensia is the resident 1960’s guitar strumming hippie here, bringing the tinted glasses and blue jeans fashion statement back for (we hope) the last time.

Set Designer Bob Athey put together an interesting multilevel piece in the middle of the stage, serving to remind us of the gender issues playing out its surface.  Director Deb Flomberg sets a quick pace, keeping the show moving with few set pieces and brisk dialog.  Rick Reid’s sound design has a substantial challenge; The Bug was built in 1912, and the acoustics in the room can be tricky.  Reid’s design makes the voices project well all the way to the back of the room.

Despite the sound design, however, there were some dialog dropouts from time to time on the stage.  At the outset, I needed a few minutes to adjust to the verse of the script.  The brisk pace of the dialog had me straining to keep up.  As I adjusted to the pace, there were still lines that, at times, got away from me.  Since I have seen The Taming of the Shrew before, it was not a big problem.  However, anyone who hadn’t seen another production probably struggled to follow the story.  To be fair, though, at my age, my hearing is not what it used to be.  I blame that partially on the Jimi Hendrix concert I saw on February 27, 1968.  (Just kidding, Jimi.)

All in all, The Taming of the Shrew is an impressive first outing for Lost and Found Productions.  They twisted the classic script to give it a fresh interpretation.  The nearly packed house on closing night was totally engaged from the outset, and the laughter was loud and continuous through the entire show.   If you’re a new company and doing your first production, the laughter and the extended applause says it all.  

It’s on.  Lost and Found has found its footing and served notice on the Denver theater community with The Taming of the Shrew.

Chelsea Rossetto as Hortencia in blue jeans and tinted glasses.

This show is suitable for all ages.

There is ample free parking in the lot across the street, and on surrounding streets.  Patrons may use Patsy’s Inn parking lot on the NW corner of 37th and Navajo.  Concessions are available and can be consumed in the theater. 

Photo Credit:  Lost and Found Productions.

TICKETS HERE:  The box office is closed, as is this production.

Pre/Post Show Dining Recommendation:

Conveniently located right across the street from the Bug Theatre at 3651 Navajo Street, Patsy’s Inn is the oldest Italian restaurant in Denver.  It’s been around since 1921, and will definitely be there at the century mark in 2021.  The Italian bread and butter will be waiting at your table when you’re seated.  

It’s a traditional Italian menu, and everything we have had there is delicious.  If you just want pizza, tell the host/hostess before you are seated.  They do not serve the pizza menu in the main dining room.  


Managing Director: Elizabeth Neuhauser

Artistic Director:  Kevin Rollins

Director:  Deb Flomberg

Set Design:  Bob Athey

Sound Design:  Rick Reid

Lighting Design:  Kevin Taylor

Costume Design:  Lisa Young

Costumer:  Debbie Faber

Stage Manager:  James Ivey


Petruchia:  Allison Learned

Nathaniel:  Owen Niland

Bianco:  Dane Markle-Klapp

Baptista Minola:  Lisa Young

Trania:  Tara Kelso

Grumia:  Karin Carr

Lucentia:  Nicole Campbell

Gremia:  Julie Kaye Wolf

Hortencia:  Chelsea Rossetto

Biondella/Ensemble:  Catherine Heine

Curtis/Vicentio/Ensemble:  Spencer Althoff

Merchant/Widower/Ensemble:  Sam Cheeseman

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