Monday, June 17th:
This version of “Taming of the Shrew” relies on a lot of comedic traditions that you would find in Vaudeville and Burlesque shows. Particularly the “straight man” routines like Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine (if you haven’t seen this one you really should!):
There are many great “straight man and funny man” pairings in “Taming…”, as there are a wealth of different clowns and clown characters in the play!
TRANIO and LUCENTIO:
Tranio always seems to be the smarter of the two and get the drop on her young master! Some of the cleverest plans come from the young servant, and she is a puppet master to much of the action that sets the play in motion!
GRUMIO and PETRUCHIO:
Again, in this pairing, the servant is clearly the funnier of the two. But this time Grumio is funnier, not by his wit, but instead of his lack of wit. He always tries to do the right thing, but either be willful misunderstanding, or lack of experience in the world, things always end up misunderstood and a mess!
HORTENSIO and GREMIO:
These two seem to switch the straight man role whenever they banter. So we’ll let you decide – who is the funnier clown in this comic routine?
PEDANT and VINCENTIO:
Pedant here wins the comic role. Another clueless clown like Grumio, but even more so. The Pedant is a hopeless fool without two wits to rub together. But it is Pedant’s complete lack of brains and understanding of his situation that allows him to play the comic to Vincentio’s straight man.
LORD and SLY:
This is one that we may have missed! But while the Lord is the cleverer of the two, Sly obviously creates the comic moments in his experience of being duped into being a lord himself.
Another feature we’re pulling from Vaudeville is some act cards, that way, the audience knows when we switch locations and time without a change of scenery – it also allows us to use another tactic of Burlesque – a pretty girl holding up and switching the act cards! A Card Girl is not a very strong Shakespeare tradition (as all actors were men back then…) but something very common to 20th century comic routines, and like many Vaudeville routines, sometimes the pretty girl is even the best comic of the show… Think of someone like Gilda Radner or Madeleine Kahn – we’ve used a lot of those funny ladies in influencing our funny ladies in “Taming”! (Check out our hostess/Bianca, she’s funny and smokin’!)
We’ll see you next time!