An all-male production of 'The Taming of the Shrew' kicks off Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park's unconventional 25th season 

The Taming of the Shrew
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Through July 10
oklahoma shakespeare in the park
Bicentennial Park
500 Couch
$8 adults, $10 students/seniors

Just when it seemed Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park was starting to settle in to its downtown location, renovations to the Myriad Botanical Gardens have forced the company to relocate for the summer.

"After considering several spots, we settled on Bicentennial Park, in front of Civic Center Music Hall, because of the accessibility for restrooms, parking and being in the heart of OKC," said Kathryn McGill, OSP artistic director.

Bicentennial Park also offers audiences the chance to break out the blankets, lawn chairs and picnic dinners, recalling the years that the group performed at Hafer Park in Edmond. The company plans to return at the Myriad Gardens next summer.

In the meantime, OSP has prepared a summer season full of inventive adaptations, beginning this week with a production of the battle-of-the-sexes comedy "The Taming of the Shrew," featuring an all-male cast.

"I have a love-hate relationship with 'Shrew' because of its complicated exploration of gender roles," said director Alissa Millar. "There is a lot of merriment in the play, but also a lot of serious questions raised. On the surface, it can seem very misogynist. I love Kate's character, who is in some ways very fiery and modern, but I do think it has obvious problems for a contemporary audience, because of the question of Kate's 'taming.'"

Millar kept coming back to the idea that when William Shakespeare wrote the play, the Bard knew Kate would be played by a man, since women weren't allowed onstage, and in that context, maybe there's meaning modern audiences miss.

"When I realized that Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park had never done an all-male cast, I thought it might be an exciting opportunity to explore what 'Shrew' might have looked like in Shakespeare's day," she said.

Millar said that Mitchell Reid and Lane Flores "? playing Kate and Bianca, respectively "? have both been fearless about exploring what it is like to play a woman.

"One of the challenges for them has been to figure out how to do it realistically. They're not doing an exaggerated version of femininity, but actually trying to honestly explore the experience of being an Elizabethan woman," she said. "In Elizabethan times, the female roles were played by young boys who in some cases hadn't even hit puberty yet. Elizabethan audiences were accepting of this practice. They were used to it.

"Our audiences aren't used to it, and our cast members playing the women are college-age and have definitely hit puberty. But they are working hard to live up to the original practices used in Shakespeare's time."

OSP will follow "Shrew" with Shakespeare's farce of mistaken identity, "The Comedy of Errors," which will be presented in the style of a 17th-century commedia dell'arte troupe and starring John Haque and Chris Curtis.

"They are both fabulous comedians, and their performances as the twins will be worth the price of admission alone," said the play's director, D. Lance Marsh.

He opted for the commedia dell'arte style because he wanted to allow for breaking the fourth wall and more direct interaction with audience. The production will feature vibrant costumes, music, sound effects and a preshow featuring comedy and circus-style acts.

"Because of all the masks we are using, we played fast and loose with casting. So there are a lot of women playing men in this production "? a nice antithesis to the all-male 'Shrew' that precedes us," Marsh said. "We are hoping to have the feel of Cirque du Soleil on the cheap with this production.  Fabulous, funny and fast "? fitting for Shakespeare's shortest play."

The last show of OSP's season, "Romeo and Juliet," will be set in a violent modern world.

"I have told the cast that we are not trying to create a specific time and place, but focusing on the "now" of this world. Blood is boiling in everybody's veins, whether from love or hate, or a dangerous cocktail of the two, and it breeds impulsive action," said director Kathryn McGill. "It should be a very interesting season." "?Eric Webb

photo Mitchell Reid and Lyonel Reneau star in "The Taming of the Shrew."

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