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The Shrew Untamed
by James Carter
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Reviewed by: Celina Cuadro

The battle of the sexes is a chaotic, volatile thing---excellent fodder for a never-ending well of stories that touch the heart tenderly or grip it fiercely. Shakespeare dipped into this well, mixed it with comedy, spiced it up with commentaries on men, women, and their relationships, and gave us The Taming of the Shrew to enjoy for decades to come. James Carter must have enjoyed the Bard's work and characters greatly, for he revisited several of those characters, enriched their stories, and gave us a few insights of his own to ponder.

The Shrew Untamed begins its tale as a sequel to Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, looking into Kate and Petruchio a year after their wedding as they journey to Pisa to visit Kate's sister Bianca and husband Lucentio. From here Carter departs from his nod to Shakespeare and launches off into his own tale. They find the Bianca and Lucentio in an ongoing vicious war, which leads Petruchio to place a bet with Kate, giving her three (3) days to reconcile her sister with her brother-in-law. Challenged, Kate tries to convince her sister to re-mold the disappointing husband into a perfect companion. Thus begins the series of events that backs Kate into a corner (her beautiful sister is even more of a shrew than Kate ever was) and forces her to re-examine her own relationship with Petruchio. In tandem with these events, there also unfolds a subplot more flamboyant than the main story, where a lady named Maria has reached her breaking point with her husband Gabrielle. Upon witnessing Gabrielle return home drunk for the umpteenth time, she bars Gabrielle from entering his mother's home until he reforms in his treatment of her as wife and partner. Resolution for Gabrielle and Maria is as hilarious and ridiculous as resolution for Kate and Petruchio is funny and poignant.

I am the wrong person to try and draw comparisons between Carter's work and Shakespeare's. I am no expert on the Bard's work---my knowledge and enjoyment of his plays are that of a small theater actor and stage hand back when I had the time to indulge in such wonderful things. My enjoyment of Carter's play comes from valuing a good laugh, identifying with the feminine psyche, and resonating with the perplexing (at least to me) intricacies of male-female relationships. And enjoy the play I did: I laughed at the ridiculous siege taking place between Maria and Gabrielle, and I shuddered at the atomic bomb about to go off once Kate and Petruchio dared interfere with the already volatile relationship between Bianca and Lucentio. My heart swelled with sympathy and camaraderie as I watched Kate negotiate the treacherous yet sweet waters of her relationship with Petruchio. And if I may gush, my favorite scene is the exchange between Kate and Petruchio when Petruchio demanded to know if she loved him, but Kate could not give a simple answer. Kate's lines were very moving, and as she struggled to explain her cautious hopes to her husband, I reached out for some tissue to contain my tearing up during my subway ride home.

By the end of the tale Carter had me adoring Kate, cheering Maria, horrified at Bianca, and relieved that Petruchio's servant Grumio managed to earn some respite along the way. Carter had me completely hooked---he captured the spirit and zest that Shakespeare pursued as well, and shaded this tale with his own mark. This play stands out proudly on its own, with or without any help from the Bard.

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