TAMING OF THE SHREW – CLASSIC COMEDY ON STAGE AT LAKE CHARLES LITTLE THEATRE

 

SHORT TAKE:

Fantastic production of Shakespeare’s most popular romantic comedy – Taming of the Shrew at Lake Charles Little Theatre from November 8 thru November 24, 2019 Get your TICKETS HERE!

WHO SHOULD GO:

Anyone old enough to sit through a fun and energetic full length play.

LONG TAKE:

Language immersion is a great way to learn a foreign language in all its many delights. Sous vide is a water immersion technique which gourmet chefs use to produce delectable meats. And Lake Charles Little Theatre presents a verbally and visually delicious, completely Shakespearean immersion experience, starting Friday, November 8, 2019, in their production of Taming of the Shrew, directed by 26 year stage veteran and Professor of Theatre Arts at McNeese University, Charles McNeeley, and stage managed by the tried and true staple of Lake Charles Little Theatre, Dan Sadler.

Taming of the Shrew is a love story with a twist, where the immovable object meets the unstoppable force and a most unusual courtship gets underway. Katherine, beautiful, rich and unmatchably pugnacious, must, by her mother’s decree, be wed before her demure younger sister Bianca can walk up the aisle. Providentially arrives Petruchio, set to expand his existing inherited fortunes to a wealthy woman, he launches into a bawdy, rousing, explosive battle of wills with the woman he is determined to make his wife.

Original period music written by David Ifland sets the mood in the theatre. Artist (Sean Hinchee, who also comes forth as the Haberdasher) and Fruit Vendor (Ashley Vidrine who also plays Josephine, a servant in Petruchio’s house) populate the stage providing the opening peep through this 16th century window from the comfort of your cat-bird seat. Funny, exciting, and romantic, this is Shakespeare’s most beloved battle of the sexes. The performers throw themselves – sometimes literally – into their roles, as actors enter down aisles, embrace the stage in force and occasionally even break the fourth wall.

Raye Floyd, returning to the stage for the first time since middle school, is in full on fiery Liz Taylor mode. Her rough Katherine meets her match only in  Petruchio, Louis Barrilleaux’, fresh from leads in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Arsenic and Old Lace, whose wildly commanding and eccentric personality is undaunted by the formidable Kate. Shakespeare’s witty banter is used to its full as these skillful thespians wrestle their way through this classic, combative and comedic courtship.

The supporting cast is also brilliant. Petruchio’s attendant, Grumio is played by Kassie Coltrin, channeling both Puck and Tinkerbell as she reacts to the insane antics of her master and new mistress. Lucentio’s Antonio Dre (Bye Bye Birdie) and Anna Sternaman’s Bianca establish an instant chemistry that make their airing an inevitability. Rebecca Harris (Arsenic and Old Lace) skillfully meets the challenge of Lucentio’s attendant, Tranio, as she is required to portray a character who portrays yet another character. Dylan Conley (Arsenic and Old Lace) plays the rebuffed suitor Hortensio with comic frustration. Taylor Novak-Tyler (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bye Bye Birdie) is completely relatable as Baptista, the put upon parent of these two very different daughters. Rounding out the cast is a wonderful ensemble of veterans and newbies. Andres Germosen method acts as the comedic and elderly Gremio, third suitor to Bianca. Biondello, one of Lucentio’s servants, is Rylee Hall. Jeffrey Underwood performs as both Curtis, a servant of Petruchio and Vincentio, father to Lucentio. Aimee Mayeux (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) does double duty as both Hortensio’s rebound wife, the Widow and as the Tailor. Philomene and Petrah, both servants of Petruchio’s house are played, respectively, by Alex Hebert and Neveah Brown. Matt Dye, on-air personality for KKGB, sports mavin and Sowela professor, does a cameo as the Merchant who pretends to be Vincentio.

The costumes are stunningly detailed and gorgeous. The backdrop warmly evocative of the time and place of 16th century Padua.

Several roles normally played by men are performed by women due to the practicalities of the available cast. They make themselves completely at home in the oft rough and tumble vaudeville antics  inherent in the action. This is completely in keeping with Shakespearean tradition inasmuch as Shakespeare had the reverse problem, for cultural and legal reasons of the time, having to employ men for women’s roles. It is one of the many genius’ of Shakespearean plot and dialogue that Will S’s universal stories, which strike deeply into the fundamentals of human nature, can be portrayed across cultural, gender and chronological lines with ease.

The cast conveys the often complex dialogue with virtuosity as the iambic pentameter comes trippingly off their tongues in a way which, with their actions and emphasis, make the Shakespearean heightened language easy to understand even for the novice.

So go see Taming of the Shrew – this funny, romantic, explosively energetic, delightful period piece of deliciously Shakespeare literature at the Bard’s story-telling best, at Lake Charles Little Theatre from November 8 through November 24, 2019. Get your TICKETS HERE! Get them early as you’ll want to see this unique romance more than once!

THE TEENAGER PROJECT: MYTHBUSTING ADOLESCENCE – A BOLD THEATER EXPERIMENT

To paraphrase Dumbledore from the first Harry Potter movie, it takes courage to reveal your innermost secrets to your friends, but it takes even more courage to reveal them to strangers for the benefit of others. And this is what the young people in the play The Teenager Project: Mythbusting Adolescence do. A distillation from personal and third-party real life experiences of young people from 12 to 21 years of age, The Teenager Project bares its soul to its audience in painful and sincere expose. The authors are the performers with contributions from the director, Charles McNeely, who, for the purposes of this play wryly self-describes as a "58 year old former adolescent".

Mr. McNeely points out these are experiences to which we can all relate, either from first hand or from stories we've heard.

The premise of the play is to bring into the open the personal crises, angst, anxieties, doubts, fears, and conflicts which happen to the average child as they transition from adolescence to adulthood.

They creatively approach the topic from a variety of scenarios, as: a courtroom drama, a research lab, a therapist office, and a variety of interactions with parents in disciplinary situations. One of the most amusing scenarios was one of the "how to and not to" discipline, as perceived from the teens' POV. Based upon the reactions of the young actors who we met after the play, I believe the young people were surprised by the approving laughter from and relatability the parents in the audience had to, the tough-talking mother to her wayward son.  I suspect the stern mom was supposed to be the "how NOT to" from the kids' point of view. However, the adults in the audience recognized the wisdom and constructivity of the stricter more disciplinary approach. So, as the teens sought to inform us, through the  wisely intentional interactiveness of the play, the teens found themselves learning as well.

This disjunct between what the actors expected and what they got in the adult audience reaction was a charming example to me of the genuineness of the young writers' efforts to convey the dis-communication between the parental authority figure and the child. This becomes especially keen when one considers that, aside from the judiciously limited input from the adult director, the play was primarily written by children who have no parental experience. In short, the adults in the audience have been both sides of that fence. The young people have not but have honestly opened their hearts and minds to let us know what they are thinking and feeling.

 

This play is for everyone. Aside from a few inappropriate uses of the name of God as an interjection, although not as a profanity, there is no bad language. There is no inappropriate sexuality and no violence. I would note though that as the topic would be of little interest to the very young, they might get restless and bored, though there is nothing in the play that the young should not see.

 

My only concern with the content is that there was too little emphasis on theological solutions and not much by way of the adult perspective. It seems as though the instinctive response of the young people was to resort to secular therapy. None went to seek guidance, specifically, from a priest or pastor or rabbi.

 

As to the lack of adult perspective though, as these experiences were gleaned directly from youth age 12 to 21, I cannot fault the lack of adult input.

 

The play did clearly display the inherent and natural inclination of youth of that age to perceive the world as revolving around them without the understanding that a broader, more altruistic worldview, and an adherence to a more God centered life might go far in a way to resolving many of their issues.

 

The director, Charles McNeely, innovatively chose what he terms a "devised" style of writing, which is not a script, but written in almost vignette form from real life experiences and based upon topics which the writers / actors thought important. With that insight, it occurs to me that The Teenager Project could be First Act in a broader scoped "Human" Project Trilogy. In this First Act they have creatively and thoroughly presented us with the problem. Perhaps a Second Act could present the adults' point of view to the same scenarios. And the Third Act could be a collaborative effort to achieve some resolution, solutions, understanding, communication and perhaps at least a detante between the two "warring" generational  factions.

 

Having seen this bold and fresh approach, I very much  look forward to seeing what the talented and insightful Mr. McNeely has in store for us in the future with his gifted troupe of young actor/writers.

 

The ensemble cast of actors each play many different parts including: (presumably) themselves, teachers, parents, therapists, and other adults, as well as representating their peers. The cast includes: Evan Seago, Peyton Stanford, Jennifer Tolbert, Himshree Neupane, Hannah Jolivette, Romm Silwal, Supratik Regmi, Marilyn Wright, and Jack Snyder.

 

The play is showing at the Sherman Fine Arts Theatre on the McNeese Campus through this Sunday, March 24th. 7:30 evening performances and at 2 pm Sunday matinee. Tickets can be purchased online here