Directed with a sure hand by John Rando, this production is lavish, lusty, and politically palatable thanks to the hot pairing of Jeffrey Nordling and Elizabeth Heflin. Director and actors make it evident that Katherine and Petruchio are shaken at first sight by undeniable attraction. As Petruchio, Kate's ardent and wacky wooer, Nordling never plays the fool even when riding a ridiculous steed or sporting the world's largest codpiece. He is fetching, articulate, and virile. As Kate, Heflin is fiery yet ultra-feminine in the clinches, which certainly warm the summer night.
Dakin Matthews finds subtle and sweet comedic tone in the put-upon Baptista, seeking to marry Kate off so Bianca (Laura Heisler) may wed one of her clamoring suitors. Here the high jinks are miles deep and marvelously adroit in the expert hands of Jack Banning as Curtis, Arnie Burton as Grumio, Jonathan McMurtry as a doddering, foppish Gremio, and Rainn Wilson as Tranio, a magnificently facile clown. Jeffrey Brick impresses as Biondello, a role frequently lost in the chaos.
To magical effect, nature peeks through Ralph Funicello's scenic design. Character and comedy are abetted by Lewis Brown's vivid costumes. York Kennedy is lighting designer. Sound designer Christopher Walker struggles to balance body mikes and the great outdoors. Still, though it seems to love itself a bit too much at times, Rando's production is the most clever and intelligent Shrew seen here in many seasons.
"The Taming of the Shrew," presented by the Globe Theatres in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Balboa Park, San Diego. Tues.-Sun. 8 p.m. June 29-Aug. 4. $25-50. (619) 239-2255.