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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

Play's Theme Is Anything but Tame

For its last local production, Shakespeare troupe will perform the spirited, often controversial 'Shrew.'

November 28, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A well-heeled young man, seeing the world as he lives off his inheritance, learns of a gentleman in a nearby town who won't allow his beautiful and popular daughter to wed until her older sister marries first.

But the older sister, Katherine, is so strong-willed and independent that men flee from her. The traveler, Petruchio, sees Katherine as a match for his own high spirits and immediately sets his sights on her--and her dowry.

The California Shakespeare Company has chosen for its final local production one of the Bard's most durable and controversial plays, "The Taming of the Shrew." The play is durable in that it is one of Shakespeare's most frequently staged; controversial for a view on male-female relationships that's decidedly unfashionable by today's standards.

Objections stem from the fact that Petruchio does eventually "tame" the willful Katherine to blind submission, evidenced by her speech in the last scene explaining that natural order calls for a woman's obedience to her husband.

For those who can adjust to the view of proper husband-and-wife relationships common in Shakespeare's time--or for those who remain sexist pigs to this very day--"Shrew" stands as one of Shakespeare's most accessible plays, especially in this version, trimmed to just over two hours by director William Fisher.

Standout performances include Jennifer Grimes and Don Schlossman as Katherine and Petruchio, and Aubrey Loots and D. Hunter White as a couple of comic servants. (White's description of Petruchio is played, with great effect, like a patter song from "The Music Man.")

As for Shakespeare's attitude toward the role of a wife . . . well, keep in mind that many of his strongest characters, including Katherine, were women.

And for those who feel that the show would be improved by the addition of a few Cole Porter tunes, wait until March, when Cal Lutheran University will present its production of "Kiss Me, Kate."

* "The Taming of the Shrew" continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 15 at California Shakespeare Company Theater, 6685 Princeton Ave., Moorpark. $12.50-$15. Reservations required. Call 498-3354.

Revue Moves: The songs of musical parodist Tom Lehrer, some of them more than 40 years old, still retain an edge--particularly in the case of the line, "Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life" from "Bright College Days." A 1980 revue of Lehrer's material, "Tomfoolery," is playing at Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley venues under the auspices of Comedy Tonight Productions.

It's hard to keep count of the songs, but it seems as though the 11-person cast runs through a few dozen, from "Fight Fiercely, Harvard" through "The Vatican Rag." Staged by the cast, musical director Zachary Spencer and choreographer Maggie White, the show adds costumes and action to material that Lehrer had performed from behind the piano, while retaining his often arch, spoken introductions. The content of lyrics like those of "The Old Dope Peddler" ("spreading joy wherever he goes") may raise a few eyebrows, but the language never gets stronger than: "What the hell."

In addition to musical director Spencer, the enthusiastic and versatile ensemble consists of Chris Feld, Kristin Fredericks, Ted Kuenz, Marilyn Moss, Gary Saxer, Holly Swenson, Gabriel Vega and Peggy Walsh.

* "Tomfoolery"continues at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Ave. (off Moorpark Road) in Thousand Oaks. $10. Reservations recommended. Call 389-3193. Tonight and Dec. 4 and 5 at 8 p.m. the show moves to Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. $10-$12. Call 389-3193.

Casting Call: The Cabrillo Music Theatre will hold auditions for its production of "Oklahoma!" by appointment only. Two available Equity guest artist contracts will be filled from among these characters: Curly, Laurey, Will, Jud and Ali, and auditions will be in Burbank on Dec. 7. Auditions for all remaining roles, including dancers and chorus, will be in Newbury Park on Dec. 8 and 9.

Actors of all ethnicities are encouraged to audition. Travel reimbursements are available. Lewis Wilkenfeld is director; Diann Alexander, musical director; and John Charron, choreographer. The show will be performed at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on weekends from March 7 to 16. Call 497-8613.

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