Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Taming

Play #130 - The Taming by Lauren Gunderson

While I was administering my final today for History of Drama and Theatre, I took the opportunity to finally read this play, and it was exactly the delightful revolutionary lozenge my disillusioned mind needed on yet another day when the news was giving me heart palpitations.

The Taming is written for a cast of three women - Katherine, the current Miss Georgia with some pretty wacky ideas about governance; Bianca, the liberal activist blogger; and Pat, the ambitious chief of staff to a conservative Republican senator. The names and a few syntactical nods are really all of Taming of the Shrew that we get in this play, and that's just fine with me. On the eve of the Miss America Pageant, Bianca and Pat wake up in a hotel room unable to find their phones (or pants, in Pat's case), leave the room, or even remember how they got there. These two natural enemies argue about their situation and their rabid dislike for each other, doing a great job of playing up the absurdity of extremity, rather than absurdity of any one side of the partisan divide. This exchange is made all the more delightful by what is one of my favorite stage directions since "Exit, pursued by bear": (Tense Sexy Partisan Pause). Then, enter the beauty queen to explain her plans for fixing what is broken in the great American experiment. The other two women are, of course, hesitant to engage, and after an energetic discussion and even a good ol' farcical chase, we are transported back in time (sort of) to 1787 where James Madison (played by Pat) sweats over the Constitution, which is expected in front of the Convention for a vote any day now. George Washington (played by Katherine) and Charles Pinckney (played by Bianca) offer encouragement and antagonism, respectively. And the brief cameos by Martha Washington and Dolly Madison (both played by Katherine) are a hoot. Finally, after the Founding Fathers reach an "agreement" on what is, by all admissions, a deeply imperfect, if well-intentioned, document, we are back in the present day in our same hotel room as the three women have to decide what direction they will take.

I will admit to being a particular head space right now that predisposed me to love this play, but I really did love this play. It is energetic and silly, while still offering insight and ass-kicking where they are warranted. I look forward to using monologues and scenes from this in acting classes, and I would really love to do this show... pretty much now. Though it premiered back in 2013 before our present political maelstrom had emerged, it does such a great job of speaking to the problems of entrenched partisanship, and honoring the roots of the American experiment in such a positive, sassy way.