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As the summertime free movies die down it is great to see Shakespeare Free-For-All returning to DC from August 27th to September 12th.
On the agenda: Taming of The Shrew
Sadly, unlike other years, the shows will not be played at the Carter Barron amphitheatre, but at the Sydney Harman Hall, however, you should not let the absentia of starry skies (and obscene humidity) deter you from attending.

Crucial ticket information is:
Tickets:
Tickets can be obtained free of charge in-person the day of the performance at the Sidney Harman Hall Box Office. Our Box Office staff will begin distributing tickets two hours prior to curtain (please note curtain times do vary). Each person in line is allowed two tickets. Tickets are subject to availability. Seating is reserved and will be at the discretion of House Management.

Subscribers/Friends of Free For All:
As a benefit of subscription, all 2009-2010 season subscribers may reserve their Free For All tickets in advance of select performances. Friends of Free For All may also reserve tickets in advance. Anyone may become a Friend of Free For All by making a tax-deductible contribution to support this important outreach program.

And more information can be found here:
http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/about/ffa/

And in case you were wondering about the play itself here is the review Christina wrote about it during its regular run:

SHREW TAMING

Lewd behavior, cross-dressing, wild women and guidos? No, this is not “MTV True Life: I am from Staten Island” (which was super great). It’s a Shakespeare play, stupid!! Sunday night, I attended the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s performance of The Taming of the Shrew. I can honestly say it was one of the best theatrical performances I have ever seen. Funny, witty and modern, it was the kind of performance that left you with all sorts of things to think and giggle about.

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Taming of the Shrew is a comedy but keeping it Shakespeare style deals with love, treachery, deceit, disguises and money. Katherina is a “shrew”- a woman with a volatile temperament. Her father is a wealthy man and can provide a handsome dowry. Here’s the problem: She’s got a temper and she speaks her mind. She has quite a bad reputation in her Italian town of Padua. Men run away from her and call her a devil. Too bad for poor Bianca, her younger and timid sister. Bianca wants to marry and has many suitors chasing after her but she cannot do so unless Katherina marries first. But wait! Here comes Petruchio. He has just stepped foot in Padua and is set on marrying a wealthy lady and doesn’t care if she is a devil woman. He is sure he can tame her.

I wont go into all the details…. Basically he convinces Katherinas’ father to arrange the marriage. He arrives at the wedding, her one day to rejoice perhaps, wearing a wedding dress and acting like a raving lunatic. After they wed, Petruchio takes her back to his home and refuses her food and drink until she says thanks to him. He then has this nice hat and dress presented to Katherina but forbids her to wear it. They have to go back to her fathers’ house in the clothes they are wearing. You can imagine the rage Katherina gets into with all these refusals. She’s mad. Really mad. But Petruchio is even madder and meaner than she is. He is downright evil to her. On the journey back to her fathers’, Petruchio forces her to call the sun the moon because it is his will. Basically, he is “taming” her by showing her he is boss. From now on she has to do what her husband says. She willfully abides. Why she does this is not quite clear. He Owns her. In the meantime, a whole bunch of suitors have disguised themselves as teachers and what not to win the love of Bianca. In the end Bianca marries this dude named Lucentio who lied about his identity to trick her father.

It all works out ok and the end scene is Bianca and Lucentios wedding. Petruchio and Katherina arrive to join the wedding party. Petruchio gets teased by the other men for marrying such a wild woman as Katherina. He places a bet to prove he has tamed her. They each call for their wife to come to them whilst they are sitting in another room. The wife that is obedient and comes to her husbands’ side is the winner. Guess who wins? That’s right Katherina is the only one who comes. She then gives a long speech about how it is a wife’s duty to serve her husband because he provides for her. The men are shocked at her transformation. The curtains close as Katherina and Petruchio walk away hand and hand, happy and content.

So that’s a very basic recap of the story. If you want the full details, read the book or watch the play or geez at the very least get the synopsis from Wikipedia.

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There are many reasons I enjoyed the play so much. Here they are:

1. The play was visually pleasing. The play was set in “modern” times. No specific time frame was given. The opening scene had a glass building front with the painted image of a woman in a bathing suit on the top. It resembled a nudie bar from the 1950s instead of a classy town in Italy. But this went along with the general theme of men pursuing women as objects. They used a lot of reds, shiny finishes and flashing lights in the scenery. Style was thought out carefully and the whole set has a distinct femininity about it. Beautiful and striking and soft.

Timeless in dress as well, the costumes ranged from 1950s bathing suit, jeans and t-shirt, 1960s motorcycle and leather jacket and Fredo from the Godfather. I kid you not. Hortensio, one of Bianca’s’ suitors and played by Aubrey K. Deeker, looked exactly like Fredo from the Godfather. From the terrible checkered 70s suit, the slicked back greaseball hair to the sleazy moustache (more guido than Fredo here). Most of the men had a Sopranos style sleaze to them. Bianca was carefully clad in the cutest of cute attire. Being the most desirable of the two sisters, she was the personification of a female. Delicate and soft with adorable puffy skirts and small printed jackets. Katherina wore plain genderless attire.

2. The music was consistent with the visuals. The original music was composed and created by the Open Chord Collective, a collaboration of musicians that compose, produce and design music for theatre and film. At times lively and upbeat, you forget that the play deals with marrying women against their will. Specific moments of cash register “Cha Ching!!” sound ,when the suitors found our about the wealthy dowry, added an extra layer of hilarity.

3. The acting was excellent. Charlayne Woodard did a superb job of playing the rage-ful Katherina. Cocky, stubborn and confident, her whole being radiated headstrong beauty. Such a powerful actor can only be paired with an equally dominant mate. In this case Christopher Invar, in the role of Petruchio. The two had a great chemistry on stage even if they did fight each other most of the time (and I mean physical struggle and hair pulling). They did seem to be a mismatch though and their chemistry only went so far. To believe that true love blossomed was a bit fat fetched. Lisa Birnbaum in the role of sexy sister Bianca was absolutely adorably charming. The whole cast did a fantastic job.

4. The play touches on a lot of important issues. What is the point of marriage? Is love more important than money? Is marriage a partnership or a way to move women around? Surely, in Shakespeare’s’ time, a woman’s worth was equivalent to her dowry. It was a burden to have many daughters because you had to provide dowries for all of them. So marrying them off was pretty much what had to be done. Once the woman married, she was legal property of the husband who could do with her as he pleased. One can argue that Katherina is upset by the whole system of marriage and matchmaking.

Katherina being difficult and not wanting to marry was a bit of an oddity. Labeled a “shrew” because of her sharp tongue and in sharp contrast with the demure and marriage-willing Bianca. But which girl has a worse fate? In the end, Petruchio really falls for Katherina and she seems to understand why he has been so rough to her. They find some sort of weird balance in their stormy relationship. They each have a role and must rely on each other. Bianca, on the other hand, is practically auctioned off for her beauty. The men list one by one what they can offer her in riches. All the while, they know nothing about her. She ends up marrying a man who can’t even get her to come when called for. WTF is that about?

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