Toward the end of Act Two, when Baptista (Katherina and Bianca's father) is attempting to make heads or tails of the mirthful mayhem, he has a baffled look on his face.
Can't blame him.Shakespeare himself is playful enough in this comedy, but when director Alexander Gelman adds a few new spins, things do tend to get a bit hectic and even confusing.
Will the real Vincentio please stand up? Have Lucentio and Tranio stopped trading places - now that lucky Lucentio has finally won the fair Bianca?
There were a few rough edges on opening night (isn't that what opening nights are for?), but - overall - William Shakespeare's ageless and hilarious look at male-female relationships is as entertaining as ever.
Seems that, even four centuries ago, men migrated from Mars and women came here from Venus.
Most productions I've seen downplay or totally eliminate the character of Christopher Sly - a drunken tinker. But he comes stumbling into this production and set the stage for some delightful hilarity.
Charlton James, one of the SLS ensemble's brightest young talents, plays both Sly and Petruchio, the latter of whom has come to "wive it wealthily in Padua."
Advised that the most available woman in town is the notorious Kate (played to boisterous perfection by Stacey Jensen), Petruchio is determined to humble the haughty wench - thus paving the way for Bianca (Holly Brown) to be pursued by a sizeable number of suitors, of whom Lucentio (in a hilarious Woody Allen-esque performance by Daniel Garton) is the most anxious.
There are all kinds of wild touches here, everything from Three Stooges pratfalls to well-choreographed antics.
Gelman has given the production a contemporary look, with an elaborate white gazebo in the rear, where Christopher Sly and a rather dashing lord (Michael Mitchell) observe the frantic goings-on, until slipping out the back and returning later as the macho Petruchio and Vincentio, Lucentio's father.
Mitchell also briefly plays a third role: Curtis.
Abigail Kinney's set is simple - just the gazebo, three different gates (which, alternately, come in handy for swinging on or hiding behind) and an elaborate bird bath, which really does contain water . . . used mostly for washing one's hands (especially after shaking hands with that greasy Gremio), but which also comes in handy for getting Kate's hat all wet.
There were a couple of miscued sound effects on opening night, along with a tiny handful of bland performances (by those in minor roles - certainly not the leads). But the show managed to maintain a fairly high energy level and, running just over two hours, would be an ideal way to introduce younger folks to the wonders of William Shakespeare.
There were a few typically Elizabethan double entendres, but that's traditional Shakespeare for you.
Maybe the costuming and setting isn't "traditional," but the language is a pure delight.
Salt Lake Shakespeare's first productions in its inaugural season have been very entertaining. I'm looking forward to seeing what the group's second season next summer will bring.