After reading The New York Times rave about The Taming of the Shrew at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, I got cranky. And I mean cranky like a five-year-old in the supermarket who wants Sugar Smacks (which are now called “Honey” Smacks, for obvious reasons.)
But I can’t go to Garrison in upstate New York to see the play because, well, life.
I have seen productions of Taming of the Shrew twice — once in period costumes, once set in Boston’s Italian North End in the 1960s. Both were funny and fast, with brilliant Katherines and larger-than-life Petruchios. I shouldn’t like this play as much as I do because, well, flagrant misogyny, but from what I read, it seems that Shana Cooper, who directed at Hudson Valley, untangled that ugly knot the way I always have: by seeing Petruchio and Kate as two social misfits who are smarter and more passionate than everyone else. It’s logical that the two of them together, and not just because the rules of comedy demand marriage as the happy ending.
For me, even mixed or bad reviews of Shakespeare contain at least one revelatory idea, fact, or interpretation — not an especially high bar given my sophomore-level familiarity with the canon.
I’m not so keen on breathless messages urging me to jump on a plane to London lest I miss THE BEST PERFORMANCE OF AS YOU LIKE IT EVER.
I have never made a pilgrimage to Stratford-upon-Avon. Hell, I have yet to visit the Stratford Festival in Ontario — although I do own the DVDs for all three seasons of “Slings and Arrows,” which is THE BEST TELEVISION SHOW ABOUT SHAKESPEAREAN THEATER-MAKING EVER.
I hope to visit both Stratfords someday, and get to London for a play mounted in Shakespeare’s Globe, the reconstructed Elizabethan theater on the banks of the Thames. Thankfully, I don’t have to travel far to scratch my Shakespeare itch: I live in Boston, which boasts a healthy calendar of local and touring productions that have whisked me to Illyria, Venice, Inverness, and Rome.
Over the past year or so, I’ve acquired a kind of motto for my Shakespeare crush, “Shakespeare is always relevant.”
Here’s another: “Shakespeare is everywhere.”
If I could hoard plays like squirrels save nuts, a summer of Shakespeare & Co. in the Berkshires would keep me going through December. But thankfully the Bard Abides all over the place – and not only in established theaters and pricey precincts.
I was transported to the forests of Arden for a memorable As You Like It in Pawtucket, Rhode Island — a diverse, working-class mill town, best known as the home of a Red Sox farm team. And I swooned through A Midsummer Night’s Dream, staged by Apollinaire Theater in front of an Egyptian-size pyramid of pure white road salt in Chelsea, an industrial, immigrant city, visible from downtown Boston. (Closing July 29. Free! With free parking!) (http://www.apollinairetheatre.com)
Shakespeare is everywhere, and much of it is free: up on its feet in most American high school and in various acting and apprenticeship programs for kids and teens, given voice in prisons and senior centers and Shakespeare reading circles.
You can take a blanket and a picnic to Boston Common for the Commonwealth Shakespeare production of Richard III, which is about a tyrant and the enablers who surround him. (Enough said.)
You could also rent or stream just about any of the plays. You could even take a Shakespeare class on a whim and stumble into a 400-year-old brave new world, dynamic and full of wonder.