Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The new production again features Irina Tsikurishvili as Katherina and Ryan Sellers as Petruchio, but Irina, the choreographer in 2012, succeeds her husband Paata as director, and Zana Gankhuyag has tweaked the choreography. Some memorable moments remain, as when a desperately hungry Katherina hallucinates that the people around her have turned into enormous chickens, and others have been ingeniously reimagined.
Paata Tsikurishvili's adaptation of William Shakespeare's comedy moves the action from Renaissance Padua, Italy, to flashy, shallow "Paduawood," vividly depicted in Anastasia Rurikova Simes' brightly colored and slightly outrageous costumes. Katherina is the tough, uncompromising older daughter of the fashion designer Baptiste (Irakli Kavsadze), who dotes on her fashion-model younger sister Bianca (Nutsa Tediashvili). Baptiste knows that many suitors want to marry Bianca, but he is determined to marry off Katherina first and offers an enormous dowry to anyone who will take her off his hands. Petruchio, a temperamental painter, decides to take the money and tame the "shrew."
While the interplay between the leads is the core of the production, Irina Tsikurishvili has provided showcases for several other cast members. Tediashvili knows how to vamp (specifically in her feather-trimmed fashion show costume), but also shows her underlying sensitivity; Justin J. Bell portrays an innate sweetness as her suitor Lucentio, who assumes a non-threatening disguise to pursue her; and Alex Mills, as Petruchio's puckish servant Grumio, proves that, as far as he's concerned, there are no small roles.
The 90-minute performance is a treat for all the senses, from its louche depiction of the artistic life (sexy model plus black patent leather bikini and boots plus shiny motorcycle) to the use of ensemble members as animated mannequins in head-to-toe bodysuits, Riki Kim's atmospheric projections, and Konstantine Lortkipanidze's all-encompassing electronic musical score.