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Kate’s change of heart in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew has always been a sticking point: how does the shrewish bitch become a loving wife? I was curious how choreographer John Cranko might approach the problem–and thrilled at the prospect of a flesh-and-blood ballet heroine instead of a sylph, ghost, swan, or waifish peasant girl betrayed and abandoned. Watching a tape of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago performing Cranko’s 1969 work (first revived here in the spring of 2001), I was not disappointed. It’s funny, bawdy (in a 50s musical-comedy way), and illuminating. Though the humorous scenes with Bianca’s three suitors get a little old, the interactions between Kate and Petruchio are fresh throughout: setting up a world of chicanery, pomp, and vanity, Cranko highlights the true lovers’ true love. Both need taming: she’s apparently embittered by the tawdry world she lives in, and he has succumbed to it, drinking heavily and squandering all his money on prostitutes. Both have plenty of energy, as Cranko’s choreography makes plain, but are misdirecting it. And because this is dance, the eventual transformation of that energy is physical–visible in punching fists, for example, that turn into yearning, reaching hands. The thing about Kate, Cranko shows us, is that she’s true to herself whether she’s angry or loving. The difference is that her anger is overdetermined, a reaction to her environment, while she loves of her own free will. Anchoring his interpretation in the body, Cranko makes much of Petruchio starving Kate–and even more of him feeding her. The Joffrey’s production of The Taming of the Shrew is lovely too, filled with expressive dancing and framed by the perfect costumes and scenery. Auditorium Theatre, 70 E. Congress, 312-902-1500; 312-922-2110 for groups of ten or more. Through October 20: Thursday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $34-$74.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Migdoll 2002.