By Melisa Valenzuela
The East Los Angeles College Department of Theater Arts did an amazing job in its production of William Shakespeare’s comedy The Taming of the Shrew (A Comedy of Masks), directed by Ramon Ramos and Vanessa Mizzone Pellegrini.
The story is set in the year 1645 in Padua, Italy. It revolves around two wealthy sisters, Katherina, played by Angel Juarez, and Bianca, played by Fernanda Coria.
Bianca, the younger sister, is sweet, soft spoken and gentle while her sister, Katherina, is the complete opposite.
Bianca’s pleasant demeanor earns her many suitors, but her mother, Baptista, played by Ronda Thomas, will not let her marry until her older sister weds first.
Petruccio, played by Christopher Barajas, comes along and happens to be looking for a wealthy woman to marry.
He is introduced to Katherina and after some witty back-and-forth banter, the couple is wed.
Petruccio eventually “tames” his wife by starving and mentally tormenting her. By the end of the play, Katherina is transformed into the gentle woman and wife that her husband and society always wanted her to be.
This play is said to be one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, and these actors did not disappoint. The audience laughed and giggled throughout the play.
All of the actors did great. Not one of them forgot their lines and the weeks of hard work it took to get to this point definitely showed and paid off.
Juarez and Coria made a believable pair of sisters. There was a scene where they were pulling each other’s hair and pushing each other to the ground, which made the audience laugh.
Joseph Darby played old man Gremio and did a great job of speaking and walking like his character.
Saul Rodriguez who played Biondello and Arthur Armenta who played Grumio were also a good source of comic relief throughout the play and did their own stunts, including falling and crawling on the stage and somersaults.
Some standouts were Thomas as Baptista and Robert Gutierrez as the faithful servant Tranio. They were the loudest and most articulate and they seemed to grasp the essence of the characters they portrayed.
Thomas’ voice and body language were consistent throughout the performance. There were moments where she would stick her tongue in a teasing manner and it added personality and humor to her scenes.
Gutierrez’s facial expressions and gestures were full of life, which made his character pleasant to watch.
The set consisted of a dark backdrop and a big old-fashioned horse-drawn wagon in the center. Even though this was the background for the entire play, it worked because it was not flashy nor did it distract from the actors.
The lighting was kept relatively dark but when it brightened up, it was concentrated on the actors at the appropriate moments.
This play is recommended for anyone who loves Shakespeare and wants to help support a group of young, talented actors.
However, people not familiar with Shakespeare’s work or language might not understand what is going on, especially in the beginning.
The beginning is a bit confusing because there are a lot of characters to keep track of and it takes time to adjust to the Shakespearean language.
Since the story is about a man “taming” a woman, that plot might be offensive to some people. It suggests that women are wild animals that need a male master to teach them civility.
There are also a few sexual innuendos which makes the play not suitable for children.
The production runs until Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets and information are available at Elactheatre.org.