CHATHAM, NJ – It’s always a pleasure when Shakespeare is accessible and fun.
Under the direction of Jen Plants, The Chatham Players has accomplished that goal. The theatre’s open stage layout has a lot to do with the sense of immediacy, where audiences connect directly with actors. And in this production, every character is fully developed and carefully drawn.
Elissa Strell Kachtan is the willful Kate, fighting all the way until she is finally ‘tamed’ by Derick Loafmann’s Petruchio. The disturbing element in this play is the overtly macho tone, as Katherina must submit to her husband before he allows her to eat or sleep. But fortunately, the play has another message, when she tells her sister Bianca and the widow that their lives will be happier if they make peace, not war.
Loafmann has just enough swagger and charm to make his Petruchio unpredictable in his determination to keep Kate off balance.
Kristin Benett is delightful as the petite Bianca, obviously in love with Scott Tyler’s Lucentio. He possesses virile presence and athletic grace in the part.
John A.C. Kennedy as Baptista has an impressive presence as Katherina’s father, while Chip Pretera is hilarious as Hortensio and Litio. The entire cast, in fact, works beautifully together. There’s never a dull moment in this smart, stylish production.
The simple bare-bones set, designed by Robert Lukasik, is a perfect backdrop, enhanced by Richard Hennessy’s lighting and Beverly Wand’s costumes.
Let’s hope we see more of director Plants in coming productions. She captures this play perfectly in both the timing and the strong cast. In her director’s note, she says “the actor is fully aware that he is playing a game and the audience is clearly another member of the cast.”
“The Taming of the Shrew,” by William Shakespeare, continues through March 16 at The Chatham Playhouse, 23, North Passaic Avenue, Chatham. For tickets, call 973-635-7363 or visit chathamplayers.org