Monday, July 29, 2013

The Tamer Tamed—Artists Rep—SW Portland

"Battle of the Sexes"
 
This Shakespearean-type comedy is written by John Fletcher and directed by Michael Nehring.  The production is under the umbrella of the Portland Shakespeare Project, Artistic Director, Michael Mendelson.  It is playing in repertory with Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew through August 4th at the Artists Rep’s space on SW Alder and 16th.  For more information and/or tickets, go to their web at www.portlandshakes.org or call 503-241-1278.

Fletcher was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s and wrote this play as a sequel to “…Shrew.”  It may be the first feminist play, as women, at this time, weren’t even allowed on the stage as actors.  It is rarely performed but is a good reaction to Shrew, where the wife becomes subservient to her husband.  In this case, the tables are reversed and Petruchio (Peter Platt) must submit to his new wife’s demands before he they can consummate their marriage.  And his new lady, Maria (Kayla Lian), has demanded clothes and liberty, as well as respect for a woman’s rights.

Other characters from Shrew reappear, such as the trickster, Tranio (Nathan Dunkin), and Kate (now deceased) younger sister, Bianca (Ashley Nicole Williams).  And there is a similar sub-plot to Shrew in which Roland (Steve Vanderzee) is trying to woo Livia (Britt Harris).  But, of course, her father, Petronius (David Bodin) prefers that she marries a rich, much older man, Moroso (Gary Powell).  If this all sounds familiar, it’s very similar to Shrew, only with the tables turned.

They both try to outwit each other with feigning illness, faking death, traveling, flirting, spending large sums of money, betting on one or the other to triumph and, of course, the servants get involved in the fray, too.  We know it will come out all right but it is pleasant to see the woman on top, especially in that repressive age.  And Fletcher is a decent writer, emulating, rather successfully, the style of his friend, William.  This is done as a Reader’s Theatre but with a great deal of activity throw in.

For all those wanting to see the playing field of wooers and wooees balanced, this does the trick.  It is interesting to note that sex seems to be the driving force in these types of contests.  Not values or personality or goodness, etc. but just the base contents of sex and money.  Such simple folks we are.  Evidently, though, universal enough to have it repeated in plots for many years to come.

All the actors are successful in portraying their roles and do very well translating the story to modern dress and, essentially, no set.  Lian is particularly good portraying the new wife.  She does well articulating the Shakespearean language and is clear in gestures and movement as to her feelings.  Platt is equally as good, showing the frustration of a man losing control of what is suppose to be a man’s world.  And Harris and Vanderzee, as the young lovers, are also fun to watch.  They battle prettily on the warring grounds.  Nehring has done well in allowing for a lot of movement and encouraging his actors to employ the actual script as little as possible.  And he evokes an accessible and conversational style to the story.

I recommend this play and it should be seen in conjunction with their “…Shrew,” to get the full scope of the dueling plots.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.