The Taming of the Shrew, Talisman Theatre, at Wing Park. Mark Hardiman's open-air staging of Shakespeare's comedy restores the "induction," in which a Bottom-like beggar is tricked into a luxurious life and watches players in an itinerant troupe perform these scenes of cruel/kind courtship. The framing works: the actors' rough energy usually makes up for any lack of eloquence. Accompanied by what seem like a million cicadas, this colorful mating dance at its best takes on the immediacy of a village fair.
The supporting players--for example, the several suitors to Patricia Austin's sprightly Bianca--are as playful or pathetic as the plot requires. The problem is that the taming doesn't come off. Samantha Figura's valley girl Kate and Jason Creighton's stolid Petruchio trigger few sparks or laughs (and Creighton should learn how to pronounce "peremptory"). Moreover Petruchio has little resistance to overcome: seldom has his first encounter with Kate been so free of no-holds-barred sparring. And whether the heroine is meant to be angry, hungry, confused, or subdued, she appears merely petulant, a princess even when beaning her sister with a pie. Whatever changes Kate undergoes must lie deep within, so Figura's final speech of submission to Petruchio seems patently unearned. Assets are Suzan Lehnert-Brown's vibrant Renaissance costumes, Amy Tompkins's violin accompaniment, and the clear Elgin sky, which lets the stars shine through.