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Drama 101

A refresher for the fest

Jacob Coakley

Othello and Cyrano aren’t the only plays you can catch at the Utah Shakespearean Festival:

So is it any wonder Taming of the Shrew holds such a central place in fest lore? Because they’ve taken it indoors this year, the fest has loosened its strict adherence to being true to Shakespeare’s period with its productions. This Shrew is set in 1947 Italy, and Petruchio, the suitor to shrew-ish Kate, is an Italian-American G.I. bent on love. Director Jane Page stages this archetypal meet-cute-and-sparks-fly romance as a fast-paced, physical romp.

Two Gentlemen of Verona is an early comedy from Shakespeare that plays like Romeo and Juliet meets television’s Three’s Company. There’s requited love, unrequited love, friendships betrayed, friendships forgiven, cross-dressing, bandits in the forest, cowardice and a happy ending. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry; onstage you can follow it as simply as any ’70s sitcom. The design of the show is filled with light and color—as Terri took us on a backstage tour, the cast was rehearsing for this show, and the two gentlemen were in full Elizabethan costume, except for their huge sneakers. While the sneakers aren’t actually part of the design, the tone fits perfectly for this tale of impetuous young love.

Ignore the fact that it was written in the 1600s in France. Molière’s The School for Wives is a straight-up door-slamming, love-scheming farce. Director Robert Cohen has Americanized a translation of the script by Ranjit Bolt and added some twists of his own, including some narrative physical comedy to fill in the blanks between acts. Molière’s tale of the attempts to defer and redirect young lust is a longtime favorite at the fest, and it’s not really hard to see why.

Like in Cyrano, the things we do for the good of others also drive the plot of Fiddler of the Roof. The famous musical pits tradition versus change as it chronicles the trials of life for Jews in Tsarist Russia. It receives the full treatment here as befitting a legend of American musical theater.

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