Theatre Info for the Richmond region

Henley Street Theatre The Taming of the Shrew

By • Nov 9th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
The Taming of the Shrew
Henley Street Theatre: (Info) (Web)
The Steward School, Richmond, VA
Through November 16th
2:30 with intermission
$15-30 ($10 Children on some performances)
Reviewed November 8th, 2013

As I have said before, I am not a big Shakespeare fan. Until I started writing these reviews, my last experiences with Shakespeare were in AP History in 12th grade. As such, I am a big fan of any production of Shakespeare that take a unique and innovative approach.

Director Jan Powell has done just this in the current production of The Taming of the Shrew presented by Henley Street Theater and Richmond Shakespeare. Powell’s production is placed as a play within a play on a 1930’s movie set. A group of actors has two hours to produce The Taming of the Shrew. The “cast” is rife with familiar 1930’s iconic actor types.

At times, this device works well, such as McLean Jesse’s Betty Boop-like ingenue and Kevin Grantz spot-on W.C. Fields. At other times, it really did not work for me, such as three women attempting to portray the Marx Brothers. Also, while the movie studio set really did work for me; having the actors who were not in a scene mull around on wooden chairs on the sidelines really was more of a distraction.

The plot of any Shakespeare play can get complicated in and of itself, but the cast managed to pull off the many twists and turns even with the added subtext of the 1930’s characters. For those who are not familiar with Shrew, it is basically the story of a man with two daughters. The youngest can not marry until the older one, who is a total shrew (a B-word, for those who don’t know what a shrew is) gets married. The story then focuses on their various suitors.

There were strong performances from Matt Hackman as Petruchio and Liz Blake White as Kate (the Shrew — in the form of a Katherine Hepburn-esqe actress); who also doubled as a feuding husband and wife acting team off the set. Other notables included the always infectious John Mincks as Lucentio and the always powerful Stacie Rearden Hall as Grumio (whose character seemed primed to sing “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo” from Damn Yankees).

And speaking of singing — one of the devices Director Powell used that worked best for me, was having the actors sing 1930’s style songs during each of the scene changes. It was worth the trip to the theater just to hear Hall and Mincks (among the many) sing.

This and the many other innovative and interesting touches make an evening with a Shrew very pleasant and entertaining. Even my 15-year-old enjoyed it!

Photo Gallery

John Mincks as Lucentio, McLean Jesse as Bianca and Jeffrey Cole as Hortensio Liz Blake White as Kate and Matt Hackman as Petruchio
John Mincks as Lucentio, McLean Jesse as Bianca and Jeffrey Cole as Hortensio
Liz Blake White as Kate and Matt Hackman as Petruchio
McLean Jesse as Bianca, John Mincks as Lucentio and Liz Blake White as Kate
McLean Jesse as Bianca, John Mincks as Lucentio and Liz Blake White as Kate

Photos by Vinnie Gonzalez

The Cast

  • Petruchio: Matt Hackman
  • Kate: Liz Blake White
  • Bianca: McLean Jesse
  • Lucentio: John Mincks
  • Gremio: Kevin Grantz
  • Grumio: Stacie Rearden Hall
  • Tranio: Patrick Long
  • Hortensio: Jeffrey Cole
  • Baptista: Mark Persinger
  • Director, Groucho, Tailor, Widow: Wendy Carter
  • Cameraman, Vincentio, Biondello: Zach Campion
  • Grip, Haberdasher, Pedant: Mercedes Valacer
  • Maid, Harpo: Danielle Thompson
  • Maid, Chico: Alessandra Hernandez

Production Team

  • Director: Jan Powell
  • Production Manager: Corrie Barton
  • Stage Manager: Jacquelyn Craig
  • Set Design: Joshua Bennett
  • Costume Design: Ginni McConnell
  • Lighting Design: Michael Jarett
  • Sound Design: Dave Maier
  • Properties: Paige Skidmore
  • Technical Director: Dennis Kennedy
  • Choreography: Paul Dandridge

Disclaimer: Henley Street Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is by day a Special Education teacher, teaching History, Science and drama to Middle and High School students in a private Day School in Stafford. He has degrees in Educational Media and Special Education. He is also a part time Radio News Anchor and occasional actor in the Richmond area. Bruce is a native of New Jersey and spent most of his "adult" life in Upstate New York, where he started and ran a national award winning youth theater and cable television program for over 10 years. He has lived in Virginia since 2002, and in Caroline County since 2005, where he is active in many community groups; including serving on the Board of Caroline's Promise.

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