The Taming of the Shrew at Thinking Cap Theatre

Beverly Blanchette, center, Melissa Ann Hubicsak, left, and Karen Stephens in The Taming of the Shrew at Thinking Cap Theatre. Photos by Nicole Stodard

By Jan Sjostrom

Is William Shakespeare’s bawdy comedy The Taming of the Shrew misogynistic or is it a forward-looking romp powered by strong women?

That’s a question Thinking Cap Theatre takes up in its re-imagining of the play in its production at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Abdo New River Room in Fort Lauderdale.

From left to right, Randy Coleman, playing a merchant; Karen Stephens, playing Petruchio; and Pete Rogan as Vincentio in The Taming of the Shrew at Thinking Cap Theatre. Photos by Nicole Stodard

According to the company website director Nicole Stodard’s staging will “explore our shifting perceptions of what’s playable, offensive or funny.”

There’s much to enjoy in Thinking Cap’s staging, but there’s little doubt where Stodard stands. Instead of provoking thought, she often hammers home her viewpoint.

In Stodard’s adaptation of the 16th century play, the characters’ missteps into what 21st century audiences likely would regard as chauvinism are signaled by a flashing red button on a screen above the stage accompanied by a loud buzz, rather as though the play were a television game show.

From left to right, Randy Coleman, playing Grumio; Karen Stephens as Petruchio; Cameron Holder as a tailor; Noah Levine as Katherina; and Robert Ayala as Curtis in The Taming of the Shrew at Thinking Cap Theatre. Photos by Nicole Stodard

The cast is multiracial and women sometimes play men and vice versa. As Petruchio and Katherina, the main combatants in this battle of the sexes, Noah Levine and Karen Stephens change places for a while in Act Two to play each other’s roles. The point Stodard is making with this device is unclear, unless it’s to show how permeable gender boundaries have become.

In the story, the wealthy Baptista seeks to get his shrewish daughter Katherina off his hands by giving her a fat dowry and barring her sought-after younger sister from marrying until Katherina is safely wed. The main thread follows Petruchio’s taming of Katherina. A secondary plot tracks the adventures of Bianca’s suitors and involves a lot of trickery and disguises.

Stodard sets the story in a modern-day corporate office where the characters are dressed in dull grey business attire. Christopher Sly, the drunk for whom Shakespeare’s play-within-a-play is staged, becomes a corporate pooh-bah.

From left to right Robert Ayala as Hortensio; Phillip Andrew Santiago as Lucentio; and Melissa Ann Hubicsak as Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew at Thinking Cap Theatre. Photos by Nicole Stodard

The performers don scraps of costumes, such as funny hats and capes, to indicate their roles in the play and a shift to Shakespeare’s era. Several actors play multiple characters.

Stodard fails to make a connection between the office framework and Shakespeare’s tale unless it’s to emphasize the obvious point that sexism persists today. Thankfully, Shakespeare’s words carry enough zest to override heavy-handed treatment and it’s possible to savor the places where the players land his saltier badinage.

Levine makes a better Petruchio than he does a Katherina. Armed with a smug smile and boundless self-confidence, Levine swaggers, coos and bullies his way past Katherina’s formidable defenses. But his pallid Katherina changes the balance of power between the characters so completely that much of the fun of seeing her tamed is lost.

Stephens reaches for the spitfire in Katherina but falls short of making Shakespeare’s lines sound natural and spontaneous. She seems to get more of a kick out of playing Petruchio.

Bill Schwartz comments drunkenly from the sidelines as Sly. Robert Ayala runs a marathon with wit and aplomb as Player Two, the Hostess, Biondello, Curtis and Hortensio.

Cameron Holder convincingly shapeshifts into a lord, Tranio and a tailor.  Randy Coleman brings irony to his roles as Player One, Grumio and a merchant. Pete Rogan plays Gremio and Vincentio and Phillip Andrew Santiago is the show’s Lucentio.

Melissa Ann Hubicsak’s Bianca is most fetching in a schoolroom scene with her disguised suitors. Beverly Blanchette plays Baptista as well as a hostess and a widow.

Thinking Cap’s production doesn’t really shed new light on the question of misogyny in Shakespeare’s play. But it might make you think about it after the show.

The Taming of the Shrew runs through April 3 in the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Performances are held at 7:30 p.m. March 28-30, 3 p.m. March 31, 7:30 p.m. April 1 and 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on April 3.

The show runs 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission. Tickets are available at or, by phone at (954) 462-0222 or at the Broward Center box office. Tickets cost $45 plus fees for regular admission and $25 plus fees for students.

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