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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: 'The Taming of the Shrew' at Chatham Community Players

Top: Scott Tyler and Kristin Bennett, Bottom: Glen D. Post and Chip Prestera

One of our finest community theatre groups in New Jersey is clearly The Chatham Community Players. The CCP productions, blessed with a remarkable  pool of acting and producing talent, are often the equal of the major regional and Off-Broadway professional offerings.

Most recently, "39 Steps" this past September, "The Grapes of Wrath last season (2011-12) and "Glengarry Glen Ross" in 2010-11 immediately come to mind. The impressive, critically acclaimed bi-annual production of "A Christmas Carol" has become a major North Jersey family event. This quick list provides a glimpse of the wide range of plays the Chatham Players have mounted during their incredible 91 years of entertaining the community. This past Friday night, The Chatham Players premiered one of their most ambitious productions William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," no not Cole Porter's celebrated musical adaptation "Kiss Me Kate" but the Bard's original 16th century battle-of-the-sexes romantic comedy.

Directing this attractive rowdy production is a newcomer to the world of the CCP, Jen Plants, a theatre professional (Actors' Equity member) and teacher in the theatre department at nearby Drew University. Mention of Drew and theatre, particularly Shakespeare, naturally reminds us that one of the truly outstanding 
 professional producers of Shakespeare's plays (nationally) is The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey led by Bonnie J. Monte, based at the Kirby Theatre on the Drew campus. 

The word 'ambitious' is used here because first, producing Shakespeare with non-professionals is challenging due in large part to the language required, and second challenging because many local theatre-goers are so familiar with Shakespeare's works from the acclaimed productions of the STNJ, with their cast of largely Broadway veterans that comparisons are inevitable.

That being the case, Jen Plants, has assembled a very attractive cast with several performers worthy of any stage: Derick Loafmann (in particular) is excellent as the  fortune-hunting scoundrel Petruchio who sets out to wed and tame the wealthy but ill-tempered Katherina, Scott Tyler as Lucentio, John A. C. Kennedy as Baptista, father of Katherina and Bianca, and Drew Militano as Vincentio, Lucentio's father. 


Plants also has wisely cast Glen D. Post as Tranio and Chip Prestera as Hortensio, the two very funny men from September's "39 Steps" who excel at physical comedy. Rounding out the large cast are; the winsome  Elissa Strell Kachtan as 'the Shrew' Katherina, equally winsome Kristin Bennett as her younger sister Bianca, Brian Carroll as Pedant, Tom Drummer as Grumio, Bob Dumpert as Gremio, Mary Morlino as the widow, and Matt Strool as Biondello.

The "Taming of the Shrew," one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies, is a play within a play that is a lighthearted tale of courtship and marriage with slapstick humor, disguises and deception, all with a happy ending. 


For many not familiar with Shakespeare or the 16th century Elizabethan language which, of course, contains many words and phrases now obsolete, we strongly recommend in order to fully enjoy this colorful romp the reading of at least the first act of the play to become familiar with the language. Here is a link to the complete script http://shakespeare.mit.edu/taming_shrew/full.html.

We give the final word to the director, Jen Plants: “Shrew is fast, funny, naughty, surprising and physical--not a bit stodgy or distant. If we've done our job in Chatham this March, audiences will feel like they are part of the action--not viewing it from afar."

The production team includes; Producer Steve Ruskin, Scenic Designer Bob Lukasik, Scenic Painting Andrea Sickler, Costume Designer Bev Wand, Lighting Designer Richard Hennessy, Sound Designer Joe DeVico, Assistant Stage Manager Joelle Bochner, and Stage Manager Andrea Sickler.


Reviewed by Rick Busciglio   March 2, 2013



The remaining performance dates are March 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and March 10 at 3 p.m. All performances are at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 North Passaic Avenue, inChatham.  Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for youth/senior.


Tickets can be purchased at our Box Office or Online. To access the theater’s online ticketing service, simply go to ccp.ticketleap.com.  The service is available 24 hours a day, and tickets can be purchased online up until three hours prior to curtain on the day of a performance. For information regarding box office hours, please call the box office 973) 635-7363.
 
The Chatham Community Players has been entertaining residents of Morris County and the surrounding area since 1922.  The organization’s mission is to produce high-quality theater for a diverse audience, while elevating its standard of excellence and providing a creative outlet with educational opportunities and outreach programs.  For more information, including details of CCP’s entire 2012-2013 season, visit www.chathamplayers.org.

Photo by Howard Fisher

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