"Mad Men" meets Shakespeare

Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser Bedlam breaks out as Petruchio (Matt Curtis), ushers along reluctant bride Katherina, played by Annie Stokes, in Run Rabbit Run Theater Group's production of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," with performances at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville Aug. 2-4.

The Run Rabbit Run Theater Group will be engaged in an annual Summer Shakespeare Program starting this year at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville. For its inaugural performance they have chosen "The Taming of the Shrew" with the curtains going up for the first time at 8 p.m. Aug. 2.

Last week, the founder and director of RRR Productions, Meredith Bean McMath, sat in the amphitheater at Franklin, observing and critiquing a dress rehearsal. For this production, she and her artistic staff have marshaled a cast of more than 30 performers. She positioned herself about midway up so that she could listen as the actors spoke their lines to insure their voices would carry sufficiently to be heard by the audience. The rehearsal began with the prelude involving a convincingly drunken Christopher Sly who enters the stage with an entourage, weaving and slurring.

"I've never been drunk before," said Garret Millich, who plays the inebriated Sly, when asked about his biggest challenge.

The ageless, "Taming of the Shrew" began its road to fame in the late 1500s and since its recurring theme has been in movie theaters, on television and stages around the world.

McMath decided to produce this version in the 1960s.

"In the 'Mad Men' era, when women were still considered property," she said.

Even so McMath has retained the words written by Shakespeare while the performers wear 60s fedoras, two-toned shoes and flowery dresses. Sporadically, McMath would say, "Louder, please" to one or more of the actors while she scribbled notes. Her biggest obstacle: "More volume."

Despite the time period difference between Shakespearean English and the 20th century, the two seem to flow together naturally.

The story takes place in Padua, Italy with all the appropriate trappings. McMath said that the stage will have the essential props plus a brief transitional video by opening night. Those who worked with wardrobes will have the challenge of organizing six costume changes during the show.

The story unfolds as Petruchio (Matt Curtis), wishing to gain the substantial dowry offered by Baptista (Jack Seeley) began wooing his daughter, the cantankerous Katherina played by Annie Stokes.

E.g. Petruchio, "Father, and wife, and gentlemen, adieu; I will to Venice; Sunday comes apace. And kiss me, Kate, we will be married o'Sunday."

Katherina replies, "I'll see thee hang'd on Sunday first."

Meanwhile the various suitors: Lucentio (Lee Bean) Grumio, (Chris Saunders) and Hortensio (Christian Meudt) compete for the hand of Katherina's younger sister, Bianca (Amy Blair).

If you go:

Performances: 8 p.m. Aug. 2-3 and 3 p.m. Aug. 4 at Franklin Park Arts Center, 35441 Blueridge View Lane, Purcellville. Tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors.

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