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Shakespeare in the Park: Undiscovered Country

By Brandy Lee

8/8/2010 – Shakespeare in the Park

On a beautiful summer's evening in the city, tucked away in a shady park, a dedicated troupe of actors who, for the love of Shakespeare, don pieces of costumes over their summer sandals and earnestly recite their lines from The Taming of the Shrew. Even the goldfinches sing on cue, and a butterfly drifts through a scene as if drawn into the poetry.

It is as Shakespeare was meant to be (or not .): outside, free, and performed for the love of the language. Now in it's 7th season, Undiscovered Country Productions, under the direction of area teacher Catherine Olsen, brings the Bard to the people with The Taming of the Shrew, running nightly through August 10 at 6pm in Island Park, Fargo.

Because the set consists of scarves tied on a fence, and the occasional piece of furniture, the sense of spontaneity created by this production is delightful. You feel as if you stumbled upon a group of friends who suddenly decided to act out a Shakespeare play with whatever was at hand, an impression reinforced by the sometimes jarring contemporary movements and acting styles. However, there are good performances and belly laughs to be enjoyed.

Of particular note is the work of Colin Froeber as Grumio. At every moment involved, in character, and interesting, this actor is a joy to watch. Without the clowning, eye-rolling, over-used actor tricks, Mr. Froeber creates a character that is both funny and fascinating.

Strong performances by Stacy & Conor Shenk, Amy Bouthilet, Blaine Edwards and Brad Bauk make The Taming of the Shrew a story to enjoy. For theatre buffs and literary enthusiasts, seeing Shakespeare aloud is to remember when eloquence and poetry and complete sentences captured our imagination. The language is not a barrier to be sped through as some irksome necessity, but rather it is the reason and the beauty, to be savored and pondered.

Because of the unfettered, outdoor setting of this production, hearing the deliciously complex lines becomes a task, and one could have wished for more projection on the parts of many performers. It is fun to imagine the response of audiences at the original Globe Theatre of Shakespeare's time, when they were displeased with an aspect of the performance. I don't advocate the chucking of produce, however----rather, a word of advice to sit close to the front to catch every tasty aside.

For a change, for the language center of your brain, and for a pleasant night out in a shady city park, catch Undiscovered Country Production's The Taming of the Shrew, nightly at 6pm through Tuesday, August 10th.

For Prairie Public, I'm Brandy Lee.