By: Catherine Wang
On June 13, MSJ’s Drama classes presented a refreshing spin on William Shakespeare’s play “The Taming of the Shrew” in the Little Theatre. A reversal of the original play’s gender roles, “The Taming of the Curmudgeon” featured witty wordplay, slapstick humor, and rollicking good spirits.
Drama teacher Tanya Roundy adapted Shakespeare’s play and reinterpreted the conventional gender roles for “The Taming of the Curmudgeon”. “It’s always fun to take Shakespeare and switch things up because he wrote about strong women, and to modernize the strong women and reverse the situation makes it applicable now,” said Roundy.
The play revolved around affluent modern-day New York girls’ attempts to woo Baptista’s sons, the charming Bruce (D’Andre Wallace) and the unruly Petruchio (James Gao). Lucia (Lucy Shen), Tracy (Maya Zhai), Grace (Sonya Wang), and Hortense (Serena Lightstone) were all bent on marrying Bruce, but Baptista (Sumedh Bhattacharya) was adamant about marrying off Petruchio first. Tempted by Baptista’s wealth, fiery Kate (Noa Kretchmer) joined the conflict, but she hoped to “tame” Petruchio. Petruchio furiously and stubbornly combatted Kate’s rule. The girls’ long-winded attempts to gain the men’s affection portrayed the irony in the reversal of gender roles. Identity confusion and failed disguises also added to the outrageous humor which characterized the performance.
Roundy hoped the play would be thought-provoking and new to an audience accustomed to “The Taming of the Shrew’s” gender portrayals. Roundy said, “Everyone has a set thinking about ‘Taming of the Shrew’, so I want to get everyone thinking about how the attitude changes and how the mindsets are different.” The gender role reversals added comedic effect and enhanced the dramatic irony of Shakespeare’s play. The quirky, fast-paced scene in which Kate attempts to tame Petruchio for her own was witty and even more humorous for its reversal of Kate and Petruchio’s personalities. Kate’s sassy, authoritarian attitude and her pet name for Petruchio, “Pet”, amused the audience throughout the play.
The performance also served as the Drama students’ final exam. Besides performing the play, the students themselves designed the creative backdrops and costumes, which reflected the high life of modern-day New York. The costumes and set framed the play’s modern setting. The wealthy girls dressed in fashionable, fancy apparel, while the servants wore simpler garments. Kate’s scandalous wedding clothes emphasized the gender role changes, and the nerdy outfits of the girls masquerading as Bruce’s tutors showcased the motif of disguises seen throughout “The Taming of the Shrew”.
“The Taming of the Curmudgeon” celebrated Shakespeare’s beloved comedy while spotlighting student acting and Roundy’s unique approach to adapting the original play.