When Randall Duk Kim left American Players Theatre with his cofounders Charles Bright and Anne Occhiogrosso at the end of the 1991 season (to work in Honolulu), some wondered whether the company could survive the loss. Two years later APT continues to deliver the intelligent, unpretentious, accessible productions of Shakespeare's work that make it worth the four-hour drive from Chicago to Spring Green, Wisconsin. In fact, their work seems more confident, their acting more surefooted, and their forays into comedy less desperate for laughs than in the last, divisive years of Kim's administration. Perhaps there's no greater measure of this renewed confidence than the decision last season to tackle not one, but two of Shakespeare's most politically problematic plays: The Merchant of Venice and The Taming of the Shrew. I wish I could report that APT had found a way around the hair-raising anti-Semitism in Merchant, but I can't, though their production was terrific. Nor can I in good conscience say that their Taming of the Shrew, now touring the midwest, is entirely free of the patriarchal bias that mars this comedy for modern audiences. In director Kenneth Albers's careful hands, however, the play becomes less the story of how stubborn Petruchio tames shrewish Katherina and more the tale of how two difficult, cranky, and lonely losers tame each other, falling in love in the process. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Jonathan Adams's Petruchio and Sarah Day's Katherina as they transform each other from a pair of overgrown brats into a couple worthy of love and capable of giving it in return. Theatre School, DePaul University, Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 E. Balbo, 362-8455. Saturday, October 23, 7:30 PM. $10-$19.50.