Last weekend I saw this performance of Shakespeare’s romantic romp, The Taming of the Shrew, that shines a comic spotlight on the pleasures and misadventures of the search for the perfect partner. Beautiful Bianca has no shortage of admirers, but she can’t marry until her headstrong sister Kate finds a husband. Along comes the fortune-hunting Petruchio who sets out to capture the heart of the fiery-spirited Kate. Petruchio and Kate face off in a crackling battle of wits, while three enthusiastic suitors launch their own devious campaigns as they vie for Bianca’s affections.

Beautiful Bianca (Dawn Petten) has many suitors, but her father Baptista (Bernard Cuffling) says she cannot marry until her older sister Kate (Lois Anderson) finds a husband. Along comes Petruchio (John Murphy) who, determined “to wive it wealthily in Padua,” sets out to win the hand and heart of feisty Kate who has frightened off all previous candidates with her prickly personality. He then sets out to tame his new bride, with the help of his sidekick Grumio (Kayvon Kelly). While Kate and Petruchio engage in a lively battle of wits, three hopeful suitors vie for Bianca’s affections: newcomer Lucentio (Anton Lipovetsky), optimistic favourite Hortensio (Kevin Kruchkywich) and the elderly but wealthy Gremio (Shawn Macdonald). While Lucentio poses as a schoolmaster, his servant Tranio (Kyle Rideout) assumes the role of his master. When confirmation of the promised dower is needed, a traveller (Craig Erickson) successfully pretends to be Lucentio’s father until the real Vincentio (Duncan Fraser) arrives. Adding to the hilarity are the local tailor (Ian Butcher), a widow (Susan Coodin), Baptista’s servant Biondella (Colleen Wheeler) and Petruchio’s servant Curtis (Bob Frazer).

For this BMO Mainstage production, set designer Kevin McAllister has created a pastoral Arcadian landscape with elements that harmonize with the stage’s natural Vanier Park backdrop. Mara Gottler’s costume concept brings strong, bright colours, contrasting stripes and bold silhouettes to the production’s Empire-era, Italian-influenced setting. Sound designer Patrick Pennefather has created lush new musical arrangements to suit the period. Gerald King’s lighting spotlights the comedy and Nicolas Harrison’s fight direction brings humorous precision to the on-stage tussles. Stage Manager Stephen Courtenay is assisted by Kelly Barker (Assistant Stage Manager) and Lucy Pratt-Johnson (Apprentice Stage Manager).

The play runs Tuesdays to Sundays May 31 to September 22, 2012 on the BMO Mainstage, in Bard’s 742-seat custom-built Mainstage Theatre tent in Vanier Park. Tickets $21 to $40. Special June evening price: $36. Box office: 604-739-0559 or