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Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies.
Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she’s always in trouble at work – her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don’t always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.
Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.
When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying – as usual – on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?
In the latest of Hogarth's Shakespeare series, Pulitzer-winner Tyler transposes the famously shrewish Kate and her would-be master Petruchio to Tyler country Baltimore's genteel Roland Park neighborhood. There, preschool assistant Kate Battista takes care of her widowed father and much younger, conventionally prettier sister, both of whom take her for granted that is, until her scientist father decides that the way to keep Pyotr, his research assistant, from losing his visa is for Kate to marry him. Considering Dr. Battista's maladroit personality and Pyotr's blunt and sometimes overly literal approach, Kate, who is less shrewish than plainspoken, actually seems quite patient. Though farcical in parts, Shakespeare's play has a dark strand Petruchio is borderline abusive, and critics are divided about whether Kate's speech calling for women to obey their husbands is meant to be sincere, ironic, or perhaps a sign of love. In Tyler's version, Kate's speech is supportive of Pyotr, and defensible. Which makes sense, since Kate and Pyotr, despite their untoward and hasty courtship, clearly like and appreciate each other. Ultimately, the tale succeeds as the kind of love story in which the most surprised people are the protagonists which, arguably, could be said of the original as well but Shakespeare's powerful emotions are absent here. It is not the shrew who is tamed, but the tale itself.