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Shakespeare’s back – better than ever

Sam Bauman
Nevada Appeal Entertainment Editor
Chatherine (Carolyn Howarth) isn't happy on the lap of her suitor Petruchio (Scott Coopwood) as he tries to woo her in a scene from "The Taming of the Shrew."
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“Brush up on your Shakespeare,” wrote Cole Porter for his Broadway hit, “Kiss Me, Kate,” which was a very loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” But you won’t have to study before seeing the Shakespeare performances at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, opening today at Sand Harbor.

At a media preview Friday of the three summer productions, the actors spoke so “trippingly from the tongue” that even these old ears could hear clearly. If you’re totally ill-informed when it comes to Shakespeare, you might want to quickly read “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Taming of the Shrew,” just to be able to be comfortable with the action. For the third production, “Greater Tuna,” just ride along for the laughs in this original two-man, multi-character contemporary comedy.

This is the 35th season for the six-week festival, and it has become a full theater on the lake shore, complete with better food and wine service every year. A multimillion dollar theater has risen among the sand dunes, and walking trails surround the theater complex. A bit of gentrification has taken place, including a special section for important people willing to pony up some extra hard cash.

But “the play’s the thing,” and the two classics are as contemporary as the latest movie. “Romeo and Juliet” is in the top five Shakespeare tragedies of Shakespeare, and “The Taming” also ranks high among the comedies.

In case you’ve forgotten your exposure in high school, “Romeo and Juliet” is the tale of two young lovers whose families have been feuding and are bitter enemies – the Capulets and the Montagues. They meet during the carnival season, when all is fun and dancing in Verona. Their love ripens and arches during the romantic balcony scene, where Juliet speaks the often burlesqued line “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” (Have no qualms; Lenne Klingaman as Juliet gives the line grace and meaning in this production.)

Complexity abounds, and the final heartbreak is a true Aristotelian definition of tragedy.

Romeo is performed by Brandon Petty, who does a fine, athletic but rich portrayal of the ill-fated lover. The rest of the Foothill Theatre Company are professionals who acquit themselves handsomely. Both lovers fit the original description by the Bard as being teenagers; they look the age and have the youthful vitality needed. And yes, Juliet is beautiful.

In “The Shrew,” Petruchio, who has come to Padua “to wed wealthily … if wealthily then happily” runs into one minor problem – his bride to be. Catherine is her name, and vixen is her game. She accepts no lover, no would-be husband, and Petruchio has his work cut out for him. Scott Coopwood is the man searching for a mate, and Carolyn Hayworth is Kate. The fight scene is a treasure to behold, Kate giving more than she takes and leaving Petruchio reeling.

This is spirited acting in full splendor and simply a delight.

The third production, “Greater Tuna,” is a two-man show with a wealth of characters. Ted Barton and Greg Bryan are two radio talk-show types in Tuna, Texas. They read the news and enact in quick costume changes the subjects of their news reports. Classic Elizabethan theater? No way. Funnier than contemporary TV sitcoms, you bet.

“Greater Tuna” runs on Monday nights, giving the Shakespeare crowd a night off. The other two productions alternate the rest of the week. (See calendar.) Ticket prices range from $14 for youth admission to $72 on weekends, with several categories in between. Tickets are available at (887) 63-SHOWS, at http://www.laketahoeshakespeare.com or at the box office, 948 Incline Way in Incline Village. A shuttle service is available from Reno to Sand Harbor, details at (887) 63-SHOWS. There are facilities for the disabled at the park.

If you’ve been to this festival, you’ll need no urging. If you haven’t, now is the time to sample fine entertainment in a beautiful setting along the lake and under the stars. When was the last time you saw the Milky Way in all its splendor?

• Contact Sam Bauman at 881-1236 or Sbauman@nevadaappeal.com.

For more information

Web:

http://www.laketahoeshakespeare.com/

Tickets: (800) 74-SHOWS

Call: (775) 832-1616