Theater: Brush up your Shakespeare with ‘Kiss Me, Kate’

‘Kiss Me, Kate’
Starring Gary Tipton, Jennifer Poliskie and Rachel Knight. Directed by Sandra Richens Cohrs. An As Yet Unnamed Theatre Co. production; continues through Nov. 25 at the MeX Theater. For tickets, call 584-7777.

A musical at the MeX? Impossible, you say? Director Sandra Richens Cohrs consistently defies those naysayers who say it can’t be done. Maybe it’s not up to Broadway standards. Maybe the sets are sparse. But the As Yet Unnamed Theatre Co. fills the black box with their love of theater. (If only they’d lose the cheesy Midi-style synthesizer music that drowns out the singers onstage.)

    This chestnut, with music by Cole Porter, is a play-within-a-play, with  enough mistaken identities and mix-ups to keep you interested. Frank (Gary Tipton) is a self-absorbed director preparing his cast for a Broadway performance of “The Taming of the Shrew.” His leading lady is also his ex-wife, Lilli (Jennifer Poliskie).

    The ever-present ingénue is named Lois Lane (Rachel Knight). Usually, the ingénue is a sweet, innocent young thing. Here, she’s a bit slutty, both as Lois and as Bianca (her role in the Shakespeare play). Knight shimmies her shoulders and wiggles her hips in the seductive number “Tom, Dick, or Harry” with a knowing smile as she chants “a dick, a dick!”

    Poliskie is a bit over the top in both roles. As Lilli, she pouts like a petulant Lolita miffed at Humbert. As Kate, Poliskie tears about the stage like the Tasmanian devil in a green velvet dress.

    It’s always a treat to hear Gary Tipton sing, and he delivers the goods, most notably in the torch song “So In Love” as he realizes his love for Lilli is alive. Tipton’s fans won’t be disappointed.

    But Man No. 1 and Man No. 2 (two gangsters played by John Kenney and Larry Chaney) bring down the house in the raucous “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.” With lyrics like: “If she says your behavior is heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus,” you can‘t help but grin as the goombas urge us to “start quoting him now“ so the goils will all kowtow.