Three Women Locked in a Washington, D.C. Hotel Room, the 1787 Constitutional Convention and William Shakespeare … Oh, and Miss Georgia, too…

Culture Watch
tags: theater review, The Taming



Bruce Chadwick lectures on history and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He also teaches writing at New Jersey City University. He holds his PhD from Rutgers and was a former editor for the New York Daily News. Mr. Chadwick can be reached at bchadwick@njcu.edu.


You think the 2016 Presidential race is wild, with ‘Crooked’ Hillary taking on “The Donald” for the White House? With Congress earning an eight per cent job approval rating but over 90% of the same Congressmen re-elected? Filibusters? Never ending television campaign ads? Wait until you see The Taming, a new play by Lauren Gunderson, in which three women involved in politics in Washington, D.C., led by Miss Georgia, who is taking a night off from the Miss America pageant to meet the other two, tackle the re-writing of the U.S. Constitution.

They yell. They scream. They have a pillow fight. They plunge into history in a dream. They hoot and they howl. What’s that Shakespeare phrase about a lot of noise signifying nothing? That is this play, which is said to in some way copy from the Bard’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Why on earth did Ms. Gunderson write this play, now running at the Shakespeare and Company Theater in Lenox, Massachusetts, and what possessed seasoned director Nicole Ricciardi to direct it? How to describe the play? Well, if the Marx Brothers were around today, they might stage a play like this. The Marx Brothers knew what they were doing, though.

In the play Tricia is an aide to an egotistical U.S. Senator who is always getting himself into trouble. She claims that she does all the work, not him, and that she, not the Senator, is one of the most powerful people in Congress. She wakes up in a hotel room one morning and meets Bianca, a journalist blogger. Tricia cannot find her pants and spends most of the play in pantyhose. They are both locked in the room and cannot get out. All of a sudden, in strolls Miss Georgia to join the fun, beauty pageant gown and all. Don’t ask how she got in.

The women talk about Washington politics for a while and then, whoosh, they disappear and emerge in a dream sequence. One is James Madison, one George Washington and the third is South Carolina politician Charles Pinckney. The women are all dressed as men and strut about the stage like men. They decide to re-write the Constitution to make it the document everybody would like it to be in 2016. They take turns hailing the brilliance of Madison, the leadership of Washington and the tenacity of Pinckney, who tells all that his state, South Carolina, and all the southern states, will leave the new union if slavery is abolished in the Constitution.

The blogger, as Pinckney, has got to be the most annoying, abrasive character ever devised by a playwright. He (she) parades about the stage flinging his arms and braying like a donkey about politics in 1787.

After a bit of nonsense, the trio (having missed all of The Taming of the Shrew, I think, or was Shakespeare locked in another hotel room down the hall?), disappears like three puffs of smoke and re-emerges in 2016.

The play is described by its producers as based on Shakespeare’s romp The Taming of the Shrew. If it is, Shakespeare, political poster in hand, must be turning over in his grave.

There surely is a point to this play, but I have no idea what it is. You have to lean forward on your seat and keep your ears open to follow it. For history lovers, you do learn that James Madison was a genius (yes, he was) and you do get a nice history of why the Constitution was needed in 1787 thanks to a good story by Enrico Spada, the theater’s assistant director, in the program. His short notes are more interesting than the entire play, though.

The actresses in the play work hard. Maddie Jo Landers in Miss Georgia, Tangela Large is Tricia and Lucy Lavely is Bianca. Ricciardi works hard to make it work. It’s a tough road for all.

If you watch the Miss America pageant on television this fall, do not hope that Miss Georgia wins. If she does, she might fling her crown into the air and jump into this play all over again.

If somebody, in fact, does have to save this country, let’s hope it’s not one of these three.

As for the play The Taming? It needs taming, too.

PRODUCTION: The play is produced by Shakespeare and Company. Set Design: John McDermott, Costumes: Esther Van Eek, Lighting: James Bilnoski, Sound: Amy Altadonna, Dialect Coach: Susan Cameron. The play is directed by Nicole Ricciardi. It runs through July 30.



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