The Taming of the Red, White and Blue
Gabrielle DeCristofaro • September 21, 2016 • Art •
At a time when we are being constantly reminded of the divisive political atmosphere in our country, it’s refreshing to see a piece of art not only look at it humorously, but also give us real solutions to the issues through unlikely advocates. “The Taming” deals with fundamental problems with both our Constitution (an outdated document that can be changed) and our binary political system. Throughout the production “the taming” is referred to as the taming of these political parties, rather than “The Taming of the Shrew”. The title of the play and the names of each of the characters are homages to the Shakespearean play, but playwright Lauren Gunderson and director Edith Weiss use irony through a strong female presence.
Presented by the Boulder-based production team, The Catamounts, opening night of the regional premier of “The Taming” at The Dairy Center for the Arts on September 17 was a full experience from start to finish. Half an hour before the show began audience members were invited to write on a large piece of paper an amendment they would like to add to The Constitution, and if they couldn’t remember what was in The Constitution, complementary copies were available to take. This set the tone for the rest of the evening. Also available was a pre-show cocktail called Fish House Punch, made with rum, brandy, peach brandy and lemon juice. According to the program the colonial drink dates back to 1774 and was made for Christmas parties, “in hopes it would ‘please the ladies’ palate, but get them livelier than their usual wont.'” Curious that a drink would be presented like this since “The Taming” has an exclusively female cast, is written by a female, and has a largely female production team. Again, irony is lost on no one.
Performed in The Dairy’s newly renovated Carsen Theater, “The Taming” was the first performance to be done in this space of any show. What’s unique about the theater is the movable seating, allowing for a different type of viewing, depending on the needs of the show performed at the time. “The Taming” is performed on the floor, while the riser seating takes up three of the walls surrounding the stage, allowing for an inclusive feeling for the audience, while giving each audience member a unique view of the stage and story space.
“The Taming” is a well-written and well-researched piece expressing an American dichotomy that always has (as represented by a jump back in time), and probably always will exist between the far left and the far right. Two characters represent these extremes: Patricia (McPherson Horle), the aide to a Republican senator, and Bianca (Missy Moore), a liberal blogger with love for animals in her heart (specifically the shrew) and with blackmail on her phone. While the two are fundamentally in opposition, we are introduced to Katherine (Laura Lounge), reigning Miss Georgia and a competitor for Miss America, who acts as an unlikely mediator between the two when she drugs and locks the three of them together in a hotel room to express her proposals to amend The Constitution. Believing her beauty will aid her in being able to showcase her platform, she hopes to use Patricia and Bianca to help bridge the gap. The problem here is that although educated in Constitutional Law, even the self-proclaimed feminist, and the closet feminist, still don’t believe Katherine’s beauty will allow her to be taken seriously.
The truly impressive aspect of this play is the seamlessness in which each actor transforms into different characters, even characters of a different gender and from different time periods, throughout. Within these changes the actors switch from one way of thinking to another, genuinely embodying those ideologies. Paired with the simple three-part stage set-up of a bed, a desk and chair, and an armchair, the transitions from each scene are able to occur quickly and enjoyably. And as each actor seemed to be perfectly cast, they then took the humor from the script and made each character their own. This allowed much room for them to showcase to the audience the mastery of their crafts.
The 90-minute play without an intermission could be performed at almost any time in our nation’s history and thematically would always be relevant. Although it is very contemporary in that the characters (especially the under-30 liberal blogger) are always looking to their phones as a way to speak to their audiences, or get a hold of their bosses, it is poignant now more than ever in the political atmosphere that is gripping the country, regarding the disagreements amongst the factions. However, the audience is not left wanting, as ways in which these extremes can compromise and work together are given.
After this performance, audience members were invited for a community meal inspired by “The Taming.” Dinner was a choice between a Knock on Wood “The Senator’s House-Smoked BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich” (pork was definitely a running theme throughout the play), or their vegan, gluten, nut and dairy free “Bianca’s Farmer’s Market Salad.” And to wrap up the evening there was the keg-tapping of a limited released beer from Wild Woods Brewery of a craft beer inspired by “The Taming” called Thy Fruited Plain American Wheat. The delicious beverage was aged on organic Palisade, CO peaches and whiskey-soaked oak.The Dairy Arts Center
“The Taming” is running from September 16 until October 8, and only some of these shows are offering the cocktail or the beer, so go while you can!