San Francisco's prize-winning American Conservatory Theater's rowdy commedia dell'arte production incorporates slapstick, pratfall and earthy humor into William Shakespeare's comedy about the two unmarried daughters of a w... more »ealthy Italian merchant. While daughter Bianca is genteel and popular, daughter Kate is foul-tempered and strong-willed. No one dares to marry Kate, until Petruchio arrives in Padua and tries his hand at courtship. "...delivered with such clarity." --The New York Times. With Fredi Olster, Marc Singer, Stephen St. Paul, Sandra Shotwell, and William Paterson.« less
"It's hard to say which is my favorite available version of The Taming of the Shrew. Certainly the Burton/Taylor/Zefferelli film is the best movie version, but this filmed theater production has a lot going for it as well. First of all, the director, Kirk Browning, is one of our hidden national treasures. He has had a long career of bringing quality productions from the theater and from opera to the small screen. This is one of his crowning achievements. Not everyone has had the chance to venture out to San Francisco and catch a live presentation from one of the top two repertory companies in the the nation, The American Conservatory Theater (ACT), on Geary st. in that fair city. This production catches a great company at its best. It is worthy of time-capsule status. This is from the golden era of theater and from a period when Bill Ball was still at the helm of an institution that has always had the highest reputation for quality staging and for a great ensemble troupe of players. ACT has always stressed two aspects both in terms of training and production, physical dexterity (including energy) and vocal acuity (the resident speech trainer, Anne Fletcher, was one of the best in the business). This production highlights both. The actors have verve, panache and speek the speech "trippingly on the tongue." Marc Singer and Fredi Olster create the sort of dynamic interplay that unfortunately is all too rare in most productions of this play. They appear to be having a ball. Singer also shines as Christian in another ACT production (Cyrano de Bergerac) which is also available in the Broadway Thater Archives series. An ACT fixture, Peter Donat, is the memorable Cyrano in that play. Those of you who only know of Singer from his role as The Beastmaster, will be pleasantly surprised at what a quality actor he really is."
It takes a beastmaster to tame a shrew
Charles S. Houser | Binghamton, NY | 01/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Riveting high energy interpretation of one of Shakespeare's more problematic comedies. The director's decision to present this somewhat sexist comedy as an over-the-top commedia dell'ate production was brilliant. Patruchio's use of physical violence to tame his headstrong finacee is somehow made tolerable because all the relationships in this play are embued with violence. And like characters in a Roadrunner cartoon, victims bounce back with vigor and always manage to give as good as they get. The troupe is incredibly in sync with one another, highly athletic, and incredibly gifted at reciting their iambic pentameter flawlessly while being twirled overhead or kicked in the groin. It really has to be seen to be believed. And who knew Marc Singer, the Beastmaster, could act?! In the end, he brings a subtlety to his part that leaves you wondering who's taming whom?Harold Clurmann's interview with the director is a nice DVD extra."
A high energy commedia dell'arte production of "Shrew"
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I always liked the Zeferrelli film version of "The Taming of Shrew" with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton for reasons largely having little to do with the text of Shakespeare's play. That film is very much a visual treat, as you would expect from Zeferrelli, but I find I have a much better appreciation for the text from this ACT version which strips everything down to the dialogue and sends the actors out to do battle. The impetus for this production is that the play is performed in the style of "commedia dell'arte," an Italian theatrical form that flourished throughout Europe from the 16th to 17th centuries (well, "The Taming of the Shrew" is set in Italy and the play was written during the 16th century, so it makes sense). This approach emphasizes ensemble acting and celebrates rich verbal humor, without disdaining physical comedy. However, do not expect to be seeing masks, because while that was key to "commedia dell'arte" where the mask was more important than the player because of the standardized characters (e.g., capitano, harlequin, pantaloon, etc.), this is not that traditional a performance. Of course, this does emphasize how much "Shrew" is like a traditional "commedia dell'arte"; you certainly have Zanni, the madcap servants, as well as the young couple whose love is thwarted by their parents with Bianca and Lucentio. Watching this play certainly emphasizes the production over the individual performances. However, you will be allowed to indulge a momentary pause when you notice that it is Marc Singer ("The Beastmaster") who is play Petruchio. Harry Hamlin is recognizable in a bit part, but the rest of the cast has remained unknown, which, again, emphasizes the script more than the actors. Even Fredi Olster, who plays Katherina, has disappeared except for choice roles like the Woman in Hallway in "Burglar" and Judge Winters on "Walker, Texas Ranger." The bottom line is that if I was interested in turning young students onto Shakespeare, in terms of the love of language and the joy in word play, then this ACT production of "The Taming of the Shrew" from the Broadway Theater Archive would be the one I would show them. Certainly the broad style of the comedy will drive home the various nuances of the Bard's language (although I agree with those critics who say Shakespeare is responsible for the main Petruchio-Katherina plot line and not the Bianca-Lucentio sub-plot). Besides, they will probably be excited to see the Beastmaster in action again."
I saw this in person, and the DVD recaptures the magic!
QuietlySmiling | Los Angeles | 04/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was 16 when I saw this production live at ACT in San Francisco, and quite frankly it is probably still the best live production of any of Shakespeare's plays I have ever seen. When I discovered this recording, I had to have it. You won't be disappointed when you watch this "Shrew" because it is so true to the original production. I have bragged for years to my friends that I saw this production live -- now you can share that amazing experience!!"
The very best version of this play!
robert crawford | Fort Lauderdale, florida United States | 05/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the play that began my love of shakespeare! The exceptionally funny wordplay is mirrored by fast-paced slapstick which never fails to elicit gales of laughter. Marc Singer is the quintessential Petruchio and the chemistry between the leads is as good or better than that between Burton and Taylor in the more well-known version. This is terrific!!!"