by Samantha Plotner
Imagine if you took one of William Shakespeare’s iconic plays and staged it not in Roone Arledge or Minor Latham but at assorted locations on Columbia’s campus—outdoors like a theatre flash mob. The King’s Crown Shakespeare Troupe (KCST) has applied this concept to their spring show for years. This year, they are performing The Taming of the Shrew.
The show’s large cast starts the performance at the sundial on Low Plaza. Throughout the play the audience is taken around campus, and before they know it they are listening to Shrew’s famous closing monologue in front of Alma Mater. Generally, the danger of a floating show is that the actors lose their audience as they move from location to location. This production, however, avoids a distracted audience by placing ensemble members along the route in small scenes of their own. A portion of the cast called “playmakers,” armed with bells and dressed in all black with runway-worthy make-up, guide the audience. Another hurdle is having enough personality and energy to fill an outdoor space. The cast has no problem with this as everyone from the ensemble to the leads kept up an impressively high energy level throughout the show.
Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays so the cast certainly had large shoes to fill performing a show that has been produced so many times. Katharina in particular is one of his most famous female roles and Madalena Provo steps up and delivers a great performance. She even manages to make Katharina’s odd monologue at the end of the play make a bit of sense. Possibly the best scene in the show is when Provo first meets Adam May’s Petruchio. It is not only a very funny scene but it also lays down the groundwork for their relationship. Zack Sheppard hits the right lovelorn notes as Lucentio and his scenes with Anya Whelan-Smith’s Bianca are exceedingly adorable. As Bianca’s frustrated older suitor Gremio Alex Katz is consistently hysterical. What is often forgotten about Shrew is that it is a play within a play. Brian LaPerche, Liz Watson, and Jonathan Gutterman (who play Christopher Sly, the Lord and Bartholomew respectively) are the audience of the play within the play and stay in character for the entire show because they are “onstage” for every scene and travel with the audience from place to place. Their reactions to what is going on in the play are not scripted but provide some of the performance’s most entertaining moments.
Kudos must also be given to the show’s production team. I can only imagine the logistical hurdles involved in putting this show together. Yes, you will be on your feet the entire performance, so wear comfortable shoes. But odds are, you’ll be so immersed in this amusing show that you won’t notice until you begin walking away after curtain call.
KCST’s The Taming of the Shrew begins tonight at 8pm at the sundial on Low Plaza. There will also be performances at 11:59pm on Friday, April 29 and at 9pm on Saturday, April 30. Admission is free.
Samantha is a sophomore at Barnard and Co-Editor in Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing. The Taming of the Shrew is her favorite Shakespeare play.