The Taming of the Shrew
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Through July 10
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
$8 adults, $10 students/seniors
Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has taken a step back in more ways than one with "The Taming of the Shrew," the opening production of the company's 26th season. And this retrogression is not necessarily a bad thing.
First, the company returns to a park "? to wit, the front lawn of Civic Center Music Hall. This move was made because the Water Stage at Myriad Gardens, OSP's home for the past three seasons, is now a construction zone "? the result of being, in effect, the front lawn of the new Devon Energy building.
OSP and theater lovers will just have to make do this summer. And we all have to hold Mayor Cornett or Devon or whoever is calling the shots at Myriad Gardens to their promise of a new, improved venue next year. The Water Stage was the best spot OSP ever had, and if the company is to grow and improve artistically, it needs to present productions in a professional theater.
Second, director Alissa Millar has adopted the Elizabethan convention of staging Shakespeare's plays with all-male casts. Women did not appear on stage in the late-16th century, so, yes, Juliet and Lady Macbeth were played originally by men or boys. This is an excellent artistic decision by Millar; the result is highly effective and gives audiences some idea about how the play would be staged in the Bard's day.
Millar has her mostly young cast performing at a high-energy level, but a lot of comedic effort does not always make a comedy funnier. Sometimes it has just the opposite effect, although that's not necessarily the case here, which has its own rewards, beginning with Robert A. Pittenridge's eye-catching costumes.
The acting is consistent with Millar's concept and includes some fine performances. The terrific Lane Flores plays the younger daughter, Bianca, and he raises the level of the production when he's onstage. Eli Gonzalez gives a winning performance as the servant Tranio, who spends most of his time disguised as his master, Lucentio (the appealing Matt Ellison).
Mitchell Reid does a good job playing Katherina, the eponymous shrew. He sure gets thrown over a lot of shoulders. Madison Niederhauser is fine as Bianca's suitor, Hortensio, and Lyonel Reneau is the shrew-tamer, Petruchio.
Jason Foreman has designed a handsome, functional set for "Shrew," but it's nothing elaborate. The production is slightly amplified with stationary microphones, resulting in inconsistent sound quality. Considering the limitations of the temporary space, it could be worse.
This should be a transitional year for OSP. If the city comes through on its promise for a new theater with all the amenities, one hopes OSP will take the quality of its work up an artistic level or two. "?Larry Laneer