The Strategic Madman
I’ve started and stopped writing this post four times now. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I have way too much to say. I love playing Petruchio. He has been a bucket list role of mine since college, and I never thought I would have the opportunity to play him. When I think of Petruchio, my mind inevitably goes to the first man I watched play him, Marc Singer of Beastmaster fame. Say what you want about the movie, Singer was a monster of a man, which informed my mental image of Petruchio. So when I auditioned for Taming, I didn’t even list Petruchio as a role I was interested in—thinking I’d never get the nod anyway. Apparently, I was wrong. A few days later, I was offered the role.
I was ecstatic to say the least. I jumped right in reading and analyzing the script. If I was going to tackle a role I considered outside of my wheelhouse, I wanted to be certain I had everything I needed to at the very least do a serviceable job. As the rehearsal process got underway and my research continued, I realized I had way too much information to implement all of it. My opinion of the character seemed to differ with some of the scholars I was reading, and I was having a really hard time reconciling that. Luckily, every night I brought a problem into rehearsal, Kat would address it before I even brought it up. It was uncanny. With my mind at ease, I set out to develop my Petruchio.
My Petruchio, I decided, was a strategic madman. Over the course of the play, he swings wildly all over the place but not without strategy. At one moment, he’s greedy, chauvinistic, and condescending. The next moment, he’s tender and romantic. He plays the buffoon and the dictator (sometimes simultaneously). He’s unstable but at the same time controlled. He tells the audience exactly what his objective is and what tactics he’ll use to obtain that objective. He manipulates the perceptions of others to achieve his desired response. It’s a game to him. Consequently, the deeper entrenched Kate becomes in his life the closer she gets to the real him. This leads to her learning how to play his game of opposites as well, if not better, than he does. During her infamous monologue, Kate, at Petruchio’s charge, berates her sister and the widow for not being socially perfect women. After which, he loudly exclaims, “Why there’s a wench!” Essentially saying, “There, that’s my girl!” This line continued to vex me until I saw it in context of Petruchio’s game. One of the most telling lines in Kate’s monologue is, “That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.” Just as Petruchio proclaimed the Sun to be the Moon, Kate, in reference to the Bianca and the widow, berates them in a far more refined way than she would have in Act one. This element of strategic manipulation is a trick she learned from her husband. One I think he recognizes in her. The end result, I believe, is a contented and happily married couple. Their happiness may be built on other people’s distress, but what can you expect when you wed a mad-cap ruffian to a frorward shrew?