LONDON — Like seems to favor like: That’s one way of explaining the departure from the upcoming all-female production at Shakespeare’s Globe of “The Taming of the Shrew” of “master of play” (i.e., director) Barry Kyle, who has quietly been replaced by — dare one use the word? — a “mistress” of play, “Mamma Mia!’s” Phyllida Lloyd.
While no one is talking on the record, sources confirm the ladies of this “Shrew” wanted a lady at the helm, and who more obvious than the much-in-demand Lloyd, arguably the most high-profile director the Globe has yet had? Nor can it have hurt that Lloyd began this year at the National directing Janet McTeer in “The Duchess of Malfi” (albeit to wildly mixed reviews) — the same McTeer makes her Globe debut next month as Petruchio, opposite Kathryn Hunter‘s Katharina.
Men, one assumes, will be allowed to attend.
With various British theater companies shutting up shop or going on near-permanent hiatus (Cheek By Jowl, anyone?), what better time to welcome Out of the Box Prods.? The company has been created to showcase contemporary Hispanic theater writing in England and across Europe.
Their first show, in 2001, was Jose Sanchis Sinisterra‘s “Ay, Carmela!” (better known from the Carlos Saura film of the same title), which toured as close as south London’s Croydon. In October, Out of the Box actually reaches the capital, finishing an eight-week tour at west London’s Riverside Studios with their second production: a first London airing for Cuban-American dramatist Nilo Cruz.
Their chosen play? Not “Anna in the Tropics,” for which Cruz was this year’s surprise recipient of the Pulitzer. Instead, London actress Paola Dionisotti (“Further Than the Furthest Thing”) will make her directorial debut with “Two Sisters and a Piano,” a four-hander that Out of the Box a.d. Catalina Botello saw in a previous staging at New Jersey’s McCarter Theater.
Rehearsals begin July 28 in advance of a Sept. 3 opening in Glasgow. “I love the play,” says Botello, “if only for the fact that I have a piano, and I have a sister.” But why call a theater company Out of the Box? “I have no idea. Everyone said, ‘Cat, change the name,’ and I can’t afford to.” Anyway, she adds, “A company is as good as its work, not what it’s called.”
Plays don’t come sweeter or more charming than “Totally Over You,” the latest from a playwright, “Shopping and Fucking’s” Mark Ravenhill, whose previous work hasn’t regularly been lauded for either sweetness or charm.
But writing this time on commission for the Shell Connections program, the world’s largest celebration of youth theater, Ravenhill has come up with a play ostensibly for kids that doubles as an amazingly funny and adult discourse on that great leveler of age, i.e. love.
His plot draws explicitly from Moliere’s “Les Precieuses Ridicules,” while nodding toward Shakespeare and Mozart and others who use issues of camouflage and deceit as a way to explicate the workings of the heart. In Ravenhill’s hourlong caprice, four girls jettison their boyfriends, preferring to await the far more glamorous amours of celebrities, only to be thrown into a tailspin when a starry new boy band turns out to be the scorned boyfriends in disguise.
The play is good on the hype that nowadays drives the teen market (and older), and it’s even better on the nature of play-acting and theater itself, a supposedly derided discipline to which “Totally Over You” acts as a lovely defense.
Some 32 school groups in different stagings have already done the play, two of which are being presented at the National in different auditoria on different nights. I saw the Kildare Youth Theater from Ireland, whose affectionate, insightful playing perfectly matched the text. And in a play obsessed with celebrity, I wouldn’t be surprised if this troupe’s 18-year-old leading man, Keith Burke, one day becomes one.
And if he doesn’t seek stardom, who cares? On this evidence, Burke already can act.