Dis Me, Kate
Wren, Celia, American Theatre
SHE LAUGHS BEST WHO LAUGHS LAST--that's a moral one might take from The Tamer Tamed, the little-known Taming of the Shrew sequel by Shakespeare's sometime collaborator John Fletcher (1579-1625). In Fletcher's comedy, Shrew's once-dyspeptic heroine Katherina has died (who can blame her, after what she went through?) and Petruchio has re-married, opting this time for an ostensibly docile female named Maria. Immediately after their wedding, however, the bride refuses to sleep with her new husband, launching at him a barrage of other humiliations calculated to change the power balance in the marriage. After large quantities of male ranting--interrupted at one point by news that local women are rallying to Maria's defense, armed with pots, pans and ladles--Fletcher ponies up a happy ending, complete with a declaration that the play is "meant, / To teach both sexes due equality; / And as they stand bound, to love mutually."
That reassuring sentiment rings out at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C., from Dec. 16 to Jan. 5, when the Royal Shakespeare Company performs The Tamer Tamed in repertory with The Taming of the Shrew. A hit when the company staged it in Stratford-upon-Avon in April, the pairing is the brainchild of director Gregory Doran, who was turned on to Tamer by a Fletcher scholar about seven years ago. …