Matthew Kalman
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In bed with the Bard: Shakespeare’s timeless Jerusalem ‘Shrew’

Gilad Petranker as Katherine and Annabelle Landgarten as Petruchio in 'The Taming of The Shrew' in Jerusalem (PHOTO: Yitz Woolf)
Gilad Petranker as Katherine and Annabelle Landgarten as Petruchio in ‘The Taming of The Shrew’ in Jerusalem (Yitz Woolf)

Don’t miss “The Taming of the Shrew,” now playing in Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Garden, the latest production from the ever-inventive Shakespeare in the Rough company.

As the shadows lengthen in Jerusalem’s loveliest public park, against the backdrop of the golden stones of the Old City shimmering in the setting sunlight, the Bard’s 400-year-old poetry chimes across the centuries accompanied by the church bells behind the ancient walls.

“Shrew” can be a difficult and confusing play– so many people disguised as other people and the ever-shifting alliances between rival suitors for the fair hand of Bianca. In the past half-century it has become near-toxic, with its antediluvian embrace of pre-feminist attitudes to women and marriage.

What did Shakespeare think of women?

But Shakespeare, as his contemporary Ben Jonson wrote, “was not of an age, but for all time.” Set a timeless writer in one of the most beautiful spots of an eternal city and laugh-out-loud magic is almost bound to ensue — particularly in the hands of a talented community cast whose dedication and experience make this production a deep cut above the amateur.

“What did Shakespeare think of women?” asks cast member Robin Stamler (Bianca/Page) in a programme note. The play ends by “reaching a head-scratching conclusion with more questions than we had at  the start.” If Katherine’s final speech is to be taken at face value as “a paean to female subservience,” there seems little room for maneuver. But, like other recent productions in Regent’s Park and the Globe Theatre, London, director Beth Steinberg’s Shrew is a thoroughly modern re-make that challenges the patriarchy and tests the politics of a Trumped-up bridal bed.

In a generation of gender fluidity and the threatened re-opening of Roe vs. Wade, Steinberg’s characters, their real identities already subsumed beneath layers of disguise, challenge us further by swapping many of her cast’s male and female roles. With men playing women and women playing men, the engaging ensemble guides us through a lusty and sometimes farcical rom-com with sinister undertones that delights in its en promenade celebration of the surrounding scenery but is no walk in the park.

‘Little wonder that his ruminations on disguise and deception still reverberate within our sock-puppet social networks of ever-shifting online identities and political surrogates’

Shakespeare, an Elizabethan playwright, wrote histories of Rome at more than a millennium’s remove that still serve as political handbooks more than four centuries after his death. Little wonder that his ruminations on disguise and deception still reverberate within our world of sock-puppet social networks, ever-shifting online identities and political surrogates.

“To me she’s married, not unto my clothes,” says Petruchio, one of the few characters to keep his own name throughout, throwing down the gauntlet to the retinue of disguised lovers who hover around Bianca. “He hath some meaning in his mad attire,” observes Tranio, in the way a New York Times columnist might consider the latest Twitter outburst from a petulant president.

And unlike The Globe, or Regent’s Park, or even Central Park, New York, it doesn’t rain in Jerusalem in August.

“The Taming of the Shrew” runs until August 24 in Bloomfield Garden behind the King David Hotel at 5:30 p.m. Free admittance (suggested donation 35 shekels). Details HERE

About the Author
Matthew Kalman, a former Middle East correspondent for international media, is chief content officer for OurCrowd, the world's largest equity crowdfunding platform and Israel's most active high-tech investor.