PORT ANGELES — Meet Kate, strong-willed and whip-smart; her passionate man Petruchio; her younger sister Bianca and Bianca’s three men in hot pursuit.
This is “The Taming of the Shrew,” written some 400 years ago, updated for the #MeToo era and this summer’s Shakespeare in the Woods production.
Starting tonight, this “Taming” will take place on a freshly built stage in the meadow of Webster’s Woods, the park at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
The play has a three-weekend run with show times at 6 p.m. each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 4, and as always, admission is free with donations welcome.
“The best parts of this play,” director Anna Andersen said, “are the humor and the sheer chemistry of its cast,” which has Jennifer Horton as Kate, Pat Owens as Gremio, Randy Powell as Petruchio and 16-year-old Breanna Schafer-Murphy as Bianca.
It will be easier to hear the performers, Andersen noted, thanks to the position of the new stage at one end of the meadow.
With tall trees and sky surrounding the performance space, this is a step into a different world, said Owens, one of the most experienced actors in the ensemble.
“ ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is a bold choice,” he added.
“Without changing any of the bard’s words, Anna has made the play current and still very funny,” an exploration of love, marriage and power. The language has its twists and turns, Owens said, but the comedy and heart come across.
“Taming” has captivated Andersen since she was a girl first discovering Shakespeare. Since then she’s acted in and directed his plays in festivals along the West Coast; five years ago, she and Port Angeles artist Sarah Tucker cofounded Shakespeare in the Woods.
Andersen said Horton, a Sequim actor who has starred in local productions including “Death of a Salesman” and “Steel Magnolias,” is one fierce Kate.
“She’s inspiring in any circumstances, but here she truly comes into her power.”
Andersen, as Horton’s understudy, will fill in tonight, Saturday and Sunday this opening weekend. She looks forward to offering audiences a chance to see two different Kates, each with her own relationship with Petruchio.
Powell takes a role written as a bully, she said, and brings it charm and “a heaping dose of sexiness.”
His performance “is part of our concept to create a #MeToo ‘Shrew,’ ” Andersen said.
“We’ve also created a culture in Kate’s home town that is repressive and unappealing, while Petruchio’s world is free and a little bit wild.”
Schafer-Murphy, for her part, calls the show surprising and powerful. She portrays a Bianca who comes out of her shell one layer at a time.
“She shows the world,” Schafer-Murphy said, “that she isn’t as perfect and obedient as everyone thinks.”
The cast also includes Shakespeare veteran Josh Sutcliffe as Hortensio, one of Bianca’s suitors, Cole Walsh as Lucentio, another man madly in love with her, and Riley Baermann as Grumio, Petruchio’s comedic servant.
Samantha Weinert is codirector, Carr Brackett created the fabric backdrops and Rylan MacDonald and Horton designed the costumes — “fun and symbolic,” Andersen promised.
“Taming” is about relationship dynamics and learning to change, she said.
“For me, the message in this play is that sometimes we need to compromise in order to get along in the society in which we are born. Petruchio teaches Kate that her bullying isn’t advancing her goals. If she says the right words, she can act with much more freedom,” and it’s an advantage having a partner who guides and amuses you along the way.
When Kate learns to trust that he has her best interests at heart, Andersen added, they both come out better off.
More information about the show is also available on the PAFAC website www.pafac.org/ shakespeare-in-the-woods.html, on the Shakespeare in the Woods page on Facebook and by calling the PAFAC at 360-457-3532.