Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Taming of the Shrew (1993)


Guerrilla Theater Company
The Taming of the Shrew
Tablework, May 1993.

We sat at the long high school table, in the middle of the space. All signs of 'You Have the Right to Remain Silent!' had been stripped away. It was May, and it was starting to get warm. A large industrial fan kept the air in the place moving.

We were reading the famous "wooing scene" where Petruchio first meets Katherina and they make fun of each other. In particular, Petruchio keeps jamming on her name; he says everyone calls her "super-dainty Kate" because that's actually the opposite of the kind of thing everyone really does call her.

"'My super-dainty Kate,'" I read, "meaning my Kate who is extremely light, which is the opposite of what everyone else in town --"

"Go on," Torque agreed.

"'For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,'" I read, "which is a pun on the word 'dainty' which means something that tastes good, and the cakes which were called 'kates' and so, Kate --"

"All cakes were called kates?" Torque asked.

"Some cakes were called kates," I said.

"How do you know that?" he asked.

I said, "Everyone knows that."

"Did you look it up?" he asked, "are you sure it means cake?"

"I know they mean cake," I said.

Pause.

"Look it up," he said.

I tried not to sigh as Beemer slid me the humongous first volume of the portable Oxford English Dictionary.

"While you're at it," he said, "look up dainty."

"'Cate'" I said, "it's under 'c' ... a choice article of food, a dainty, a delicacy."

"So they both mean cake!" he said.

"Yes," I said. "'Take this of me --"

"Did you know dainty also meant cake?"

"I think I did," I said, "I'm not sure. 'Take this of me' ... Shall I continue?"

"Please."

"'Take this of me, Kate of my consolation' -- meaning 'accept what I am about the say as truth, Kate who consoles me' --"

"What?"

"You want me to look up consolation?" I asked.

"No," Torque said, "the first bit. 'Take this of me' ... take what of me?"

"What he's about to say," I said. "He's about to make a promise and he wants her to accept it."

"You sure he's not offering her cake?"

"What?"

"He's just made a double-pun on the word cake," Torque insisted, "is it possible he offers her some cake?"

I was stymied. "Uhb. Where would he, uh. What?"

"Maybe he pulls it out of his pocket."

"That's ridiculous."

"He's making jokes about cake, he says 'take this of me,' he wants her to take something from him --"

"His word."

"I don't get that from the text," Torque argued.

"But you get that he slings a piece of cake at her?"

"A Twinkie," Torque decided.

I sat dumb-founded.

"We're trying to ... That's ridiculous. Is that what Shakespeare meant, that Petruchio, in the midst of wooing Katherina, offers her a Twinkie?"

Torque leaned forward in his chair. "You have to convince me, through the text, that he didn't."

An '80s-infused' production of The Taming of the Shrew continues at Great Lakes Theater through October 29, 2011. There are no Twinkies, though there is one Whatchamacallit bar.

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