Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kiss Me, Kate: Offstage, On Stage: All the World's a Stage

Shakespeare featured a play within the play in Hamlet, when the Prince of Denmark gets involved in the play that the traveling players will perform: "The play's the thing/ to catch the conscience of the King."  The players not only perform their play but have roles outside of it in the main action.

Kiss Me, Kate stretches this play within a play convention across the entire show (and in the process is much funnier.)  The main action consists of a theatrical company preparing an altered production of The Taming of the Shrew.  We see scenes from this production, as well as offstage antics that hilariously mimic the couples conflict in Shakespeare's script, which erupt on stage.

The idea of showing offstage mischief juxtaposed with the play onstage would be done again and again— notably in the Tony-winning comedy Noises Off.  Playwright Tom Stoppard constructed a play-around-the Shakespeare play in his first stage play, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead, and then built a story around a theatrical production of another Shakespeare play in the Oscar-winning movie, Shakespeare in Love. It concerned the original production of Romeo and Juliet, with Shakespeare himself in both the play-within-the-movie and the main action of the romantic comedy film.

 But the mold was made by Kiss Me, Kate.

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