The Shrew’s Final Word: Shakespeare’s Misogyny Is Brought to Heel by a Cast of Women


Even when you’re blissing out at Shakespeare in the Park — the moon shining, the cast infectiously joyful — it’s still hard to ignore the fact that The Taming of the Shrew is pretty vile. It’s a Punch and Judy abuse comedy, but Bardophiles excuse it for its poetry; romance-minded productions try to make the central pair into a love-match. So the radical decision in Phyllida Lloyd’s carnivalesque version isn’t the (stellar) all-woman cast. No — it’s that these women actually play Shakespeare’s violence without apology. There’s fun to be had at Shrew, but maybe this is the final word on the play: Men should henceforth be too ashamed to do it.

Lest you think our politics have evolved, Lloyd frames the thing as a Miss Italy pageant, complete with imperious Trumpian voiceovers. Cush Jumbo’s Katherina competes with sister Bianca (Gayle Rankin) at the urging of father Baptista (LaTanya Richardson Jackson); slobbering men (including suitors Judy Gold and Donna Lynne Champlin) grunt and clap. Janet McTeer’s Petruchio breaks Katherina to marriage while swaggering like Mick Jagger — she’s so masculine, she’s feminine again — giving a performance worth standing in line for. Indeed, the deep bench of women performing next to her (particularly Jackson, Champlin, and Adrienne C. Moore as a servant-in-disguise) are Lloyd’s real rebuke to the patriarchy. Why do we do Shakespeare any other way? We don’t seem to be missing anything of value.

Shakespeare in the Park: The Taming of the Shrew

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

Delacorte Theater

Central Park at 81st Street


Through June 26

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 14, 2016

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