|The Taming of the Shrew: Evangeline Fontaine and Alessandro Colla in the Drilling Company's production of this play at Bryant Park / Caitlin Ochs for the New York Times|
It takes gumption to stage a play like Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” at a time when gender inequality is a growing concern. (And that’s before you take into account the challenges of performing it in Bryant Park in Manhattan, with passing planes overhead, fickle microphones and crowd noises from the Bryant Park Grill.) After all, this comedy, at least on its face, is about a husband breaking the will of his hot-tempered wife. But the Drilling Company (the troupe behind Shakespeare in the Parking Lot) has taken it on and sweetened some of its aftertaste.
Part of its approach involves the setting: Padua, Italy, is transformed into a coastal New England town, nicely evoked by Jennifer Varbalow’s sets. Here, the acid-tongued Kate (Evangeline Fontaine) is of yacht-club stock and Petruchio (Alessandro Colla) is a fisherman. Among the suitors courting Bianca (Mary Linehan in a nimbly underplayed performance) are Gremio (Michael William Bernstein), Hortensio (Michael Tyler) and Lucentio (Lukas Raphael).
This is a Shakespeare comedy, so you have servants disguising themselves as nobles; suitors disguising themselves as an academic and a music tutor to reach Bianca; and a Pedant (Jack Sochet) disguising himself as Lucentio’s father. If it sounds confusing, it can be. But two supporting actors stand out: the sprightlyJarrod Bates as Tranio, Lucentio’s wingman, and Eric Paterniani, evincing an Italian accent with Pythonesque zeal as Petruchio’s second, Grumio.
The guts of the play are the exchanges between Petruchio, played with beery, growling sea-dog swagger by Mr. Colla (who also directed), and Ms. Fontaine’s Kate, who becomes the kind of woman who would find life on a trawler a liberation from captivity on an antiseptic estate. (Her soliloquy of submission toward the end is softened to a kind of blithe eye-rolling.) You wish this production set aside more time to let their exchanges breathe; while Mr. Colla’s Petruchio is a hearty presence, it is Ms. Fontaine, evolving from a harpy to a warm and earthy presence in a black sailor’s cap, whom you hunger for more of.