"The prologue replaces Shakespeare's seldom produced introduction to the story which is a short two-scene, play-within-a-play, in which a nobleman plays an elaborate practical joke on the town's drunken tinker introducing some of the play’s themes and setting up the story for a troupe of actors to perform The Taming of the Shrew," according to CST notes. "Director Josie Rourke invited LaBute to re-imagine this prologue from a contemporary perspective, providing a twenty-first century lens through which to view the acting company's performance of the story in its original 16th-century setting."
Casting for the comedy was announced on March 11. The company includes Bianca Amato as Katharina; Ian Bedford as Petruchio; Sean Fortunato as Hortensio; Mike Nussbaum as Gremio; Brian Sills as Tranio; Larry Yando as Baptista; Stephen Ouimette as Grumio; Katherine Cunningham as Bianca; William Dick as Stage Manager; Mary Beth Fisher as Director; Alex Goodrich as Biondello; Marc Grapey as Vincentio; Erik Hellman as Lucentio; Steven Pringle as Pedant; Matthew Sherbach as Curtis; Karen Janes Woditsch as Widow and ensemble members Tim Gittings and Terry Hamilton.
Rourke, the artistic director of London's Bush Theatre, said in a statement, "One of the reasons I first thought of Neil for this project is his ability to take on big themes and go to the extremes of what it is people want in their lives. He is very funny and he writes with great speed of thought. His writing has kind of a classical energy to it, and it sits very interestingly with Shakespeare in that sense because his plays move very, very quickly. He can establish in a few lines what most dramatists establish over a number of pages."
LaBute's plays include Reasons to be Pretty, Some Girl(s), Fat Pig, The Shape of Things, The Distance From Here, among others, and the screenplay for "In the Company of Men."
He first worked with Rourke at the Bush Theatre when he premiered Helter Skelter/Land of the Dead in 2008. In the famous Shrew, "fortune-seeking Petruchio arrives in Padua looking to marry into money," according to CST notes. "After hearing about the fiery Katharina, he sets his sights on taming her for her dowry. Her younger sister Bianca is eager for Katharina to be wed since her own marriage depends on her elder sister's first taking place. Bianca is flooded with suitors, including the elderly, wealthy Gremio and a complete newcomer to Padua, Lucentio, who disguises himself as a tutor in order to secretly woo Bianca."
The creative team includes scenic and costume designer Lucy Osborne (her work "will span LaBute's contemporary scenes and the lush world of the Italian Renaissance in Shakespeare's story"); lighting designer Phillip Rosenberg; sound designer Lindsay Jones; wig and makeup designer Melissa Veal; properties master Chelsea Meyers and fight choreographer Matt Hawkins.
The Taming of the Shrew will play CST's Courtyard Theater. Tickets are $44–$75 and may be purchased by calling the CST box office at (312) 595-5600 or by visiting www.chicagoshakes.com.