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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare on stage

Claire Reid | The Observer
Claire Reid | The Observer

Notre Dame’s student-run Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company (NSR) brought a night of spunk, squabble and suitors to the Washington Hall stage last Saturday. The troupe performed Shakespeare’s 1594 play, The Taming of the Shrew, which was directed by senior Isobel Grogan and assistant directed by junior Cate Cappelmann. 

The play centers around the marrying of Katherina (junior Nandini Sadagopan), an ill-tempered woman whose father, Baptista (junior Aryan Gupta), requires her matrimony before her younger sister Bianca (freshman Hannah Smith) — desired by many men — can wed. Over the course of the comedy, the eligible bachelor Petruchio (freshman Dominic Keene) succeeds in attaining Katherina, enabling Bianca to marry one of her suitors. Though in Shakespeare’s original text, the story unfolds in front of the eyes of a poor, drunken tinker named Christopher Sly, NSR places the character (sophomore Christina Randazzo) within a familiar collegiate narrative — in front of an inebriated girl after a party. Rather than simply watching the action, NSR’s Christopher Sly is much more engaged with the cast’s interactions — at one point even offering Katherina a sip of his drink.

The shrew’s taming consists of obstinate Katherina being trained by Petruchio to lose her reason and blindly agree with all of his judgements — such as that the sun is the moon. At the same time, Tranio (junior Alex Ford) pretends to be the bachelor Lucentio (senior Hayden Adams) so Lucentio can compete with Hortensio (junior Harrison Larkins) for Bianca’s favor. To do so, Lucentio masquerades as a Latin tutor, and Hortensio disguises himself as a music teacher. With a profession of his love hidden in a ridiculous Latin “lesson,” Lucentio wins Bianca’s love over Hortensio’s failed attempts to tune and play his instrument. The rest of the play includes a plethora of continued disguises, Petruchio arriving late on his wedding day — dressed in a cheetah robe, dazzling hat, mismatched socks and black gloves — and Lucentio’s spiffy dance moves to Marvin Gaye’s, “Let’s Get It On,” in attempt to gain Bianca’s attention.

The NSR cast’s great chemistry is obvious. The audience cannot help but fall in love with the world they create on stage, as they bring youthful energy to their mastery of Shakespeare’s text. They become strong-tempered women and bumbling gentlemen, mixing humor with serious themes. Despite wearing masks, they succeed in portraying their characters’ emotions fully using carefully rehearsed inflections, stances and gestures. Sadagopan played her role as Katherina magnificently, acting barefoot and wearing a bright red dress to accentuate her bold range of personalities throughout the play. Her final monologue contemplates the role of women in relationships and their duties to men, probing the audience to consider the intersectionality of love and power. 

While the King’s Men had their share of plagues, relentless workloads, and the burning of the Globe Theatre to deal with, NSR also added to the long legacy of misfortunes in the Shakespearean theatre business. Attempting to perform on stage for a live audience during the Covid pandemic was no small feat, and the cast and crew faced strict restrictions, cancellations and quarantines. Nevertheless, they triumphed over the odds, bringing their professional and collegiate take on Shakespeare’s great grave comedy. 

Today, more than ever, the show must go on. And Notre Dame’s Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company promises it will go on splendidly.