Kate Havard

The Maiming of the Shrew

Review: Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ at the Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Center for the Arts through June 26

It’s possible that I could enjoy a big campy drag musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, if the divas could sing. I’m not ruling it out. But in Ed Sylvanus Iskandar’s all-male Shrew, now playing at D.C.’s Shakespeare Theater, the principals can’t hit the high notes, the text is shredded, and Shakespeare’s dark and complicated story of love, sex, and power is largely ignored in favor of cheap tricks and shallow commentary on the performative nature of gender roles. You see, this is a play about a mean man breaking a spirited woman, and making her behave, and so it is very problematic. That’s why the women parts are played by drag queens. (Get it? Gender is performative.)

Shakespeare Among the Cowboys

Review: James Shapiro (editor), 'Shakespeare in America'

I believe that the American love for Shakespeare can be summed up in the words of an anonymous cowboy. The historian Philip Ashton Rollins, in his post-Civil War work about life on the range, visited a ranch where the cowboys who could read would sometimes perform speeches for those who could not. After a rousing rendition of Mark Antony's "Dogs of War" speech from Julius Caesar, Rollins heard a young cowboy cried out: “Gosh! That fellow Shakespeare could sure spill the real stuff. He’s the only poet I ever seen what fed on raw meat.”

Shakespeare’s Globe at the Crossroads

Review: Dominic Dromgoole’s Tempest at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, through April 22

There was something a bit spooky about watching Dominic Dromgoole’s Tempest in London at Shakespeare’s Globe. Although the theatre that now stands on the banks of the Thames is only a replica of the place where Shakespeare wrote, directed, and acted, the space in which I sat seemed full of ghosts. The actor playing Prospero (Tim McMullan), with his high hairline, heavy-lidded eyes, and long nose, even looked a little like the Author. The resemblance might have been an accident, but the choice of play certainly was not.

Othello’s Wicked Magic

Review: Othello, directed by Ron Daniels, at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. through April 2

The ancient Greeks, that cheerful bunch, had a saying that you can count no man truly happy until he is dead. The gods may grant a man many years of good fortune, only to tear it all up by the roots in an hour. Of the happy men who live, we can say only that they are lucky, for now. This is how jealousy works its wicked magic in Ron Daniels’ Othello: no woman can be proven faithful until she is dead. It is remarkable, in this timely and provocative production now playing at the Shakespeare Theatre, how easy it is to make a man come undone. What Othello desperately wants, once Iago introduces him to the possibility that Desdemona might stray, is evidence of his wife’s infidelity. He does not pursue proof of her innocence. After all, how could he prove a negative?

A Paleocon, an Otherkin, and a Saint Walk Into a Bar

Review: Eve Tushnet, ‘Amends’

Eve Tushnet’s wonderful debut novel Amends takes place during the first and only season of a doomed reality television show about alcoholism. The show—also called Amends—follows a group of miserable weirdos through a one-month spell in rehab. The book is also a brutal satire of both the conservative cultural journalism crowd and the “Everything is a Problem” social justice crowd. What sticks with you, though, are the serious things at work beneath the novel’s snark: The reflections on sin and faith, the elusive nature of redemption, and the terrible price we sometimes pay for wisdom.

A Washington Winter’s Midsummer Delight

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Aaron Posner, open through March 13 at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Midsummer1If Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a moral, it’s that love makes you act dumb and weird. Aaron Posner’s Midsummer, now playing through March 6 at the Folger, is also dumb and weird, but in a good way.

Danceable Shakespeare

Review: Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale, from the National Ballet of Canada, at the Kennedy Center through Sunday, January 24

Hannah Fischer and Piotr Stanczyk in The Winter’s TaleThe Winter’s Tale has the saddest happy ending in all of Shakespeare. Categorized as a problem play or a romance, it doesn’t end with a stage full of corpses—the King, who has lost his wife, son, daughter, and best friend entirely through his own folly gets almost everything restored to him—but the audience nonetheless leaves the theater feeling unsettled. British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has adapted this odd, Job-like play for the Royal Ballet of Canada, and it is now playing at the Kennedy Center (although Friday and Saturday performances have been cancelled due to the snow, and the fate of the rest of the run is uncertain).

The Many Masks of Prince Hal

Review: Harry Berger Jr., ‘Harrying: Skills of Offense in Shakespeare’s Henriad’

Alex Hassell as Henry VIf I had to guess, Prince Hal (later Henry V) was Shakespeare’s favorite character, or at least the one he considered most interesting. The role is certainly Shakespeare’s most outspoken. The wayward prince who transforms himself into a hero-king has more lines and appears in more plays than any other of the Bard’s creations. Within a single play, only Hamlet and Iago have more lines than King Henry has in Henry V­. Add in his lines from Henry IV Parts I and II, he surpasses them both.

Splendid Strength

Review: The Iliad, Translated by Peter Green

When it comes to picking a translation of the Iliad or the Odyssey, readers of Homer sometimes feel as if they are being forced to choose between the beautiful and the good. The most popular translations of Homer are either praised for their poetry or for their accuracy, but not for both.

Freedom and its Discontents

Review: Mary Nichols’ ‘Thucydides and the Pursuit of Freedom’

In the first year of the war between Athens and Sparta, Pericles was chosen to speak at a state funeral for the Athenian war-dead. This was an old tradition and a grand spectacle, starting at the funeral pyre and ending in front of a mass, ornate sepulcher. Traditionally, the speaker, surrounded by the wailing female relatives of the fallen, would make a speech about the noble deeds of the dead, but Pericles’s speech was different.He spoke to the mourning public about why Athens is worthy of empire.