Last Thursday night, audiences were treated to loads of laughs and romance at Wortham Theater. In Houston Ballet’s rendition of the ultimate battle of the sexes The Taming of the Shrew—adapted into a flowing ballet in 1969 by choreographer John Cranko—timeless themes of love, jealousy, pride and sex came together in a picture-perfect production that speaks the same truths about relationships in 1592 as today.
Even without the Bard's prose, the ballet found the humor through the dancers’ feet and faces. With sharply staged slaps and lifts and tucks and rolls, the performance was as athletic as it was entertaining. Melody Mennite and Connor Walsh vied for the audience’s laughs and hearts with their expertly rehearsed movements and playful jousting. And the sets, while minimal and straightforward, felt right for the storyline.
Walsh’s proud and plastered Petruchio was bouncy and light of foot, managing to nail down his role as a sloppy Good Time Charlie. His impeccable arrogant playboy perfectly complemented Mennites' defensive and proud Kate, whose constant resting “meh” face probably could be seen from the rafters, not that it was her only mode: her subtle, but effective, expressions drew the audience to her. And her movements were seamless, making Kate’s jabs, stomps, fights and altogether feistiness highly comedic and charming.
The two main actors were supported by equally talented dancers, including—on opening night—Jared Matthews, Oliver Halkowich and Charles-Louis Yoshiyama as Kate’s suitors. After failing to win her heart, the trio recruits the drunken Petruchio to try his luck after he stumbles onstage like a rock star with two bosom-heaving ladies. The situational comedic moments really worked.
Houston Ballet’s Shrew is sweet, funny and comes just in time for summer love.
Thru Sunday, June 21 at Wortham Theater Center. Tickets range from $20—170.