Repercussion theatre breathes new life into an old shrew

The basic skill in Shakespearean performance is the ability to toss off Bill’s best high-flying gibberish with an air. The audience goes away convinced the actors understood it all, even if they didn’t themselves. But Repercussion Theatre goes one better in its high-energy Summer 2012 production of Taming of the Shrew: the plotlines stay sharp and don’t get lost in the verbal sparring between characters.

There’s a convention in minimal Shakespeare productions of doing a frantic amount of balletic, even acrobatic action, then freezing into tableaux for the more important speeches. We see a fair bit of this here, the production being blessed with not one but two tall, freakishly skinny actors, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski (Lucentio) and Alex McCooeye (Petruchio), both of whom are capable of taking a pratfall with style. Still, the directors need to trust the dialogue enough not to instruct their actors to jive around quite so much while speaking, as if we might get bored if they didn’t.

The addition of several familiar Italian songs like “Eh Cumpari” is a real plus. Davide Chiazzese, who plays paterfamilia Baptista Minola, has a rich tenor that brightens several scenes. There’s enough music sprinkled through the show to be fun without turning it into a weak approximation of a musical, as has happened with a couple of Repercussion productions in past years, and the Italian tunes remind us the story is set in a fantasy Italy of no particular era.