Theater Review: Director Frome, With Strong Cast And Crew, Delivers Big With Shakespeare Farce
NOTE (Thursday, April 26, 2018; 2:32 pm): This post has been updated to reflect the proper spelling of the surname of Patrick Fergus. An earlier version of this review had it misspelled in one location.
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SHERMAN - It is not often that community theaters tackle the complexities and rigors of staging plays from The Bard. The Sherman Players, under the direction of Robin Frome, have not only met those challenges, they have exceeded expectation and delivered with a lively and entertaining production of Shakespeare's social comedy The Taming of the Shrew.
With a blend of somewhat contemporary and period costuming and sets, the audience is transported to Padua, Italy, in a time long ago. In this city lives a distraught father, Baptista Minola (played by Dean Alexander). He is confounded by his eldest daughter, Katherine (Alison Bernhardt), who is the Shrew in need of taming.
Baptista's youngest daughter, the lovely and demure Bianca (Brianna Bowman), has many suitors desiring her hand, yet poor Baptista cannot offer it until the tyrannical Katherine is betrothed. Bianca's suitors are varied and many, one of whom is Lucentio (Karl Hinger), a wealthy young charmer who appears on the scene with a couple of very compliant and comedic manservants, Tranio (Jared Emanuel) and Biondello (Patrick Fergus).
Gremio (John Fabiani), an older gentleman with less to offer Bianca, seeks to wed the beauty, as does Hortensio (Jeff Bukowski), who suffers many indignities in his pursuit.
When a former member of the elite, Petruchio (Joe Harding), accompanied by his manservant Grumio (Steve Stott) wanders in to Padua, the suitors descend and implore him to marry Katherine for the wealth she will bring. He is quick to agree.
In doing so Petruchio takes the irascible Kate off her father's hands and clears a path for Bianca to wed. You must visit Sherman Playhouse to find out how it all plays out.
The acting in this performance is very good. The trio of manservants - Jared Emanuel, Patrick Fergus and Steve Stott - provide excellent comedic sidekick renditions which made the audience laugh from the opening curtain to the last line. Karl Hinger and Brianna Bowman were charming as they played off of each other.
As the older admirer with a twitchy leg, which was physical comedy perfection, John Fabiani was delightful, as was the doleful Jeff Bukowski.
Playing the couple who do not fall in love but find themselves in love, Joe Harding used his booming voice to portray his power as Alison Bernhardt's Katherine falls in line. This is a difficult concept by today's standards, yet Ms Bernhardt allows for the perception that her character has done it her way. She is an impressive talent.
In smaller roles each performed beautifully, William Kenyon, Morgana Kate Watson, and Elizabeth Booth are all fun to watch.
The set, designed by Mr Frome, was the perfect backdrop for every single bit of the action. As always lighting designer Al Chiapetta made magic.
Shakespeare's work continues to be produced and performed because it is magnificent on every level. Kudos to Robin Frome, cast and crew for bringing it to life in our corner of the world. This is a treat not to be missed.
Performances of the 2018 season opener continue weekends through May 12. Curtain is 8 pm Friday and Sunday, and 2 pm Sundays, April 29 and May 6.
Call 860-354-3622 or visit shermanplayers.org for full ticket and performance details and reservations.
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