The Bride Wore Red

Playing the brute with Janney, Sanders reveals Petruchio's tender side in his soliloquies, handled with a subtle, abashed diffidence, full of apology for the harsh therapeutic measures he's forced to take; Janney, meantime, builds stunning moments of vulnerability into her ferocious displays, increasing in length as the unyielding pressure goes on, till she finally cracks in the sun-and-moon scene. At which point, as again during the last banquet scene's sanctimony, Shapiro has her and Petruchio share a laugh; these two are a matched pair.

Jay O. Sanders and Allison Janney in The Taming of the Shrew: the battle of the sexes, via the World Wrestling Federation
photo: Michael Daniel
Jay O. Sanders and Allison Janney in The Taming of the Shrew: the battle of the sexes, via the World Wrestling Federation

Not everyone onstage gets so much chance to explore. Erica Alexander's Bianca and Scott Denny's Lucentio are more shoved around than active; Danyon Davis's Biondello is asked only to live up to the fool's cap on his head; and a little of Mario Cantone's Grumio— played as a muscle-man's sissified sidekick out of '30s screwball comedy— would go a long way. On the other hand, Tom Mardirosian is a drolly hapless Baptista (his belated realization that he's gotten rid of Katharina is one of the show's best laughs), and Reg E. Cathey a smart, well-spoken Hortensio. And there's Wright, always seeming to walk (or rather, lurch) in two directions at once, and rarely uttering a phrase without its own special gulp, stammer, or lapse into unintelligible mutter. I haven't seen him this funny since I first came across him, as the infantilized king in Liviu Ciulei's Arena Stage production of Leonce and Lena. Then he seemed the spirit of Harry Langdon come to life; now he's graduated to the dementia of the young Ed Wynn. Either way, he's a sublimely perfect fool. As he wanders off at the end, vowing to tame his wife, while simultaneously picking her a bouquet, he encapsulates both the essence of comedy and the intelligence that peeps out, smilingly, under the evening's good-natured noise and frenzy.

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