The Taming of the Shrew, Wing & Groove Theatre. Tumbleweeds and gunfight at high noon are about the only Wild West cliches missing from Wing & Groove's fiery, funny Taming of the Shrew. Director Andrew Gall has transported Shakespeare's battle of the sexes to an American frontier town during the Gold Rush--an interesting but not entirely new concept, since earlier stage and film versions have been set in the west. The play opens with a stylishly staged saloon brawl, Petruchio dunks his hired hand in the town's watering trough, Kate hog-ties her sister, and "Home on the Range" becomes the blessing before a meal.
The cast plays the slapstick enthusiastically, and Gall's staging together with Todd C. Smith's fight direction make this rustic romp vibrantly entertaining. Rae Bucher's venomous Kate, Robert May's roaring Petruchio, Tristan Poje's cunning Tranio, Mark Duncan's grumbling Grumio, and Ron Mace's alternately doting and desperate father stand out, but the ensemble shows consistent talent. Gall's attention to detail when many players are sharing the stage, Justin Breman's sound design, and Imma Curl's costumes effectively conjure the Wild West environment despite an amateurish set.
Setting the play in the 1870s has definitely given it fresh comic appeal, but it's done little to keep audiences from cringing at Kate's taming. Bucher champions wifely duties without a hint of irony, and Petruchio in cowboy boots doesn't make it any more palatable when Kate offers to put her hand underfoot to ease his journey.