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LA Theater Review

The Taming of the Shrew

That's quite a high-wire act Jonno Roberts and Emily Swallow are taking on, playing Petruchio and Katherine—arguably Shakespeare's most incendiary couple. The way it plays out under Ron Daniels' direction, Petruchio seems to be so first-sight gobsmacked by Kate's beauty and wit—mostly the former—that he's improvising his shrew-taming course on the fly, imposing capricious whims and penalties when they're not necessary. Or, Roberts' Petruchio has wandered in from "Hamlet," and the character is just plain insane.

Entire fields could be planted and cultivated during the silences between Kate and Petruchio—at the couple's first meeting and at Petruchio's dinner table where Kate will not be fed. Swallow's Kate is not a rager; she is bemused by her reputation as a hellcat and can do more with a well-lobbed arm gesture or raspberry than with her fists. Swallow also makes it clear almost immediately that this Kate will buy into Petruchio's agenda. Forced into marriage? Kidnapped from her own wedding? Anything but.

Truthfully, these two are clearly such neophytes in matters of love and courtship that they're struck dumb until something startles them—usually Petruchio's inept servants spilling water on his crotch. Indeed, the army of servant lads (seven actors who also do rousing dances and skimmington clatter) ramp up the lighthearted comic moments. Without them, one suspects this "Shrew" might bog down considerably.

The battle for the hand of younger sister Bianca (Bree Welch) has plenty of zing as well. Jay Whittaker's Lucentio is a scholarly nerd transformed instantly into a love-struck puppy, while Michael Stewart Allen's Tranio gets a serious charge out of impersonating his master (nice sunglasses!). The romping comedy and that thorny love story find a place side by side on the Globe stage. It's a delightful blend.

Presented by and at the Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego. June 16–Sept. 26. Repertory schedule.  (619) 234-5623.

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