Leathered Up

You've gotta love Elizabethan literature's golden nuggets of wisdom. Take this bon mot from Shakespeare's totally un-PC play, The Taming of the Shrew: "Such duty as the subject owes the prince/ Even such a woman oweth to her husband." Despite all the comedic barbs and ripostes exchanged between our leading lovers, Kate and Petruchio, contemporary critics won't let us forget that the play was little more than an implicit sanctioning of misogyny. The Cutting Ball Theater's updated-for-the-times version, however, is a fresh corrective that defies inbred interpretations. Besides all the smart theater gambits, there's plenty to look at, as artistic director Rob Melrose sets the drama in San Francisco, smack in the middle of the sexual fetish subculture. Teeming with hip hop dance, leather daddies, and a soupçon of commedia dell'arte, this version advances beyond gender wars and belly-flops into the heady concept of performing identity. Illusory characters, plays within plays, and constantly shifting power dynamics ensure that audiences will stay enticed throughout. And the great thing about this Taming is that despite all the modernizing, Cutting Ball doesn't fleece the play of its relevance. In fact, it's as bawdy, abrasive, and multilayered as the Bard likely intended it to be.

 
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