Beyond the inability of many hardworking, taxpaying citizens who have health insurance to obtain necessary medical care at a reasonable cost; beyond a legislature too busy back-stabbing and bad-mouthing each other to actually do their jobs; beyond the incestuous face-sucking of Wall Street and Washington at the expense of the 99 percent — How do you really know that the American political system is irretrievably broken?
A racist pile of pumpkin spice latte shit and an ethically compromised, angry elitist were the “best” options the two major political parties could come up with to hold the highest office in the land.
This stupid country.
Maybe if there were more plays like The Taming people would put aside their apathy and inconsequential differences and band together to finally force some desperately needed change.
Leave it to one of Boulder’s most boundary-pushing theater companies, the Catamounts, to bring an unusual and affecting play like The Taming to town. With its rousing call to arms, its unusual structure and its topical humor, this quasi-experimental piece is the perfect choice to open the new Carsen Theatre at the recently renovated Dairy Arts Center. With its customizable seating and flexible performance space, the Carsen is sure to host some of the more avant garde productions at The Dairy in the coming years.
Prolific playwright and seemingly big-brained Lauren Gunderson wrote The Taming as a politically charged take on Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. While one could argue the connections between Gunderson’s work and the Bard’s are tenuous at best, the play’s screaming plea for some semblance of sanity in our nation’s politics is profound and undeniable.
A Republican senator’s top aid, Patricia (McPherson Horle), and a left-wing blogger, Bianca (Missy Moore), wake up in a hotel room with no idea how they got there. Patricia is pants-less, both are phone-less, and they soon discover that they are locked in.
The women’s imprisonment stems not from something as mundane as organ harvesting or a misguided reality TV show pitch. It turns out they’ve been conscripted by Katherine (Laura Lounge), a Constitutional scholar who also happens to be a Miss America contestant, to help fix the Technicolor mess we call our government.
What ensues is part raucous political debate, part drawing room comedy and part revisionist historical reenactment. Gunderson’s agenda is clearly to appeal for a return to rationality and compromise as the cornerstones of a sane and sustainable political system, and I, for one, applaud her efforts. America was founded on, and arguably couldn’t have been founded without, compromise. It is a lack of compromise that is killing the American political system today. Also, three cheers for Gunderson promoting the abolition of the Electoral College! Hip, hip!
The Catamounts are obviously passionate about The Taming’s potential to both entertain and challenge its audience. Each actor takes on multiple roles with equal vim. They all seem to enjoy spouting Gunderson’s copious, clever one-liners like when the blogger exasperatedly cries, “How am I alive if I can’t tell people about it?” Horle disappears most completely into her senator’s aid character; while Lounge and Moore exhibit excellent range as they jump genders and generations throughout the play.
Scenic Designer M. Curtis Grittner’s simple, static set comprised of an unmade bed, a desk, two chairs and two doors, gives the three actors everything they need and not an ounce more. The costuming by Liz Hoover identifies each character — the beauty pageant contestant, the liberal social media warrior and the conservative political crusader — before any of them utter their first line of dialogue. Director Edith Weiss pulls it all together and makes the most of the Carsen Theatre’s relatively small, open space design.
The only criticism I have of The Taming is structural. Like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Gunderson’s play suffers from an excess of endings. As was clear by the unanimous round of applause at one point, there is a moment that clearly should mark the end of The Taming. For whatever reason, Gunderson blew right past that and tacked on a coda that feels a lot like unnecessary filler. Thankfully, the rest of The Taming is strong enough to overcome that questionable choice.
It is wonderful to have the Catamounts back home at The Dairy, and they couldn’t have chosen a better play than The Taming to kick off their 2016-2017 season.
On the Bill: The Taming — presented the Catamounts. The Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826. Through Oct. 8.