The hilarity of politics
Feeling depressed, confused, frustrated by the 2016 Presidential campaign? Then I have the antidote for you! Pack a picnic dinner (don’t forget the wine) and head over to the Marin Shakespeare Company’s production of The Taming.
The play, which opened this Saturday at the climate-perfect Forest Meadows Amphitheater on the Dominican University campus, doesn’t seem to have much to do about Shakespeare’s play, but it does have a shrew in it. Specifically, the North American Giant Pygmy Panda Shrew, an endangered rodent that is the passionate focus of left-wing activist blogger Bianca (Monica Ho). Playing Petruchio to Bianca’s shrew is Pat (Katie Rubin), ambitious aide to the most powerful Republican senator on the Hill and now currently trying to focus the senator to push a bill she has single-handedly written through Congress. Well, she had to write it herself, her boss was chasing an intern around the office.
The differences between the two political advocates seem irreconcilable, even more so when they find themselves locked in a hotel room at the Miss America pageant. With massive hangovers and without their cell phones. And, in the case of Pat, without her pants. What is going on? And worse, what has happened? Did they…? Where are those pants?
The answer to these and other unspeakable questions is given to these frothing-at-the-mouth adversaries by Miss Georgia, y’all: a cartwheel-turning, red-white-and-blue sequined Katherine Chelsea Hartford (Tristan Cunningham), why thank you! Miss Georgia, amid the baton-twirling beauties of the pageant, has some important political ideas of her own though. And to realize them she slipped Pat and Bianca a mickey (each), deprived them of essential elements (phones, pants) and locked them semi-conscious into a hotel room. Where, she does declare, they three will rewrite the Constitution.
It is, after all, in need of a freshening up. I mean … the Electoral College? Puh-lease.
Or is that, the hysteria of politics?
In the second act, the play’s locale shifts. We are now in the newly born United States of America, 1787, watching our Founding Fathers hammer a new version of the Articles of Confederation into a Constitution. Somehow our players have switched roles. Pat has now morphed into the serious, intellectually careful James Madison. Bianca is the deal-swinging Charles Cotesworth Pinkney, South Carolina statesman, supporter of the wealthy and advocate of slavery. And Katherine has become George Washington, an especially jolly, swaggering, jive-talking version of the I-cannot-tell-a-lie guy. She also plays the fear-inciting dragon, Martha Washington, and the fluttery Dolley Madison.
Arguments between the two sides – liberal and conservative – continue. Deals are struck. And maintained: as Washington asks Madison and Pinkney, “Did you shake on it? No backsies!”
Georgia-born playwright Lauren Gunderson, who now makes her home in Marin, has written a wonderfully witty play, sophisticated, wry and full of insights into the current dysfunctions of the system and the universal and ever-present realities of human negotiation in general. Robert Currier has spun the comedy into high-octane performance, directing a talented trio of women actors, who never let up their energy or abandon humor during the play’s descent into even deeper levels of absurdity.
Definitely an antidote to this year’s feverish politics.
– Jaime Robles
Marin Shakespeare Company’s The Taming continues through July 17. For tickets and information, visit marinshakespeare.org.
Photo: Monica Ho (Bianca), Tristan Cunningham (Katherine) and Katie Rubin (Pat) in Marin Shakespeare Company’s “The Taming”. Photo by Steve Underwood.