Actor and director Sara Bruner remembers when the Idaho Shakespeare Festival changed her life
If you have tickets to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” congratulations. The run of this production of The Bard’s battle-of-the-sexes comedy is heavily sold, and some nights are sold out. Under the guidance of director Sara Bruner, this is not to be missed. Here’s why:
1. Fresh feel: Former ISF actress and now director, Bruner’s approach to this problematic play offers a truly contemporary take on the fraught relationship between Katherine and Petruchio. Bruner made laser-like edits that sharpen the storylines and speak clearly to today’s complicated dynamic between men and women. Just by streamlining the story and changing a few pronouns, she sets her characters on a more even playing field so that it becomes about power in relationships, not just gender.
2. Fiery chemistry: The fierce energy between Jessika D. Williams and Jonathan Dyrud as Katherine and Petruchio, drives the performance. They wield infectious chemistry as they battle it out in a witty war of words – and physical antics. He’s slightly mad, and shows up for the wedding disheveled and dressed as a lunatic. She seethes with anger and comes at him as a caged animal. When their two fiery selves meet, they explode and extinguish to bring peace to the land.
3. The look and feel: Russell Metheny’s lovely Globe Theater-style set glows under Rick Martin’s gorgeous lighting. Leah Piehl’s Renaissance-style costumes pop and add humor. Plus, the on-stage seating makes for fun interplay with the audience, and it’s a great opportunity to watch and be behind the scenes at the same time.
4. Impeccable timing: The production simply brims with top-notch ensemble acting and impeccable timing, and lots of new faces: Steve Pickering is masterful as Kate’s wise and weary father, Baptista, and Joe Wegner nails it as Grumio, one of Petruchio’s servants. His Act II-opening rant is hysterical. Taha Mandviwala is sweetly earnest as Lucentio, suitor to Bianca, who also is played by an ISF first-timer, the delightful Mandie Jenson.
5. Gender switch: Who wears the pants? Pretty much everyone. Bruner’s casting of Tranio and the Merchant as women, excellently played by Maggie Kettering and newcomer Sara Griffin, helps to turn the piece on its head. Tranio disguises herself as her master Lucentio and convinces the Merchant to impersonate Lucinco’s father. The two together offer rollicking gender play.
Go see it
“The Taming of the Shrew,” Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater, 5657 Warm Spring Ave., Boise
- 8 p.m. June 4-6, June 8, June 12-14, June 18-22, 7 p.m. June 23.
- Individual tickets: $35-$52 weekends, $28-$42 weekdays. $22 for students with ID any night at IdahoShakespeare.org / 208-336-9221. On-stage seating is available at the hillside price.