Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 25, 2016

The Taming

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA 
through July 30, 2016
by Shera Cohen

What happens when a staunch Democrat, a loyal Republican, and Miss Georgia occupy the same room? Now, let’s go backward approximately 200 years. What happens when James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, and a prim and proper southern gent (sorry, couldn’t catch the name) meet in yet another room? In the case of Lauren Gunderson’s “The Taming,” both scenarios mix and confuse politics with intent, along with lot of laughs.

The play’s title, supposedly related to Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” is a misnomer. The script is by no means Elizabethan or shrewish. Aside from the heading, Shakespeare & Co. presents an edgy piece of present-day and Revolutionary-era intellectually sound political bantering. It helps audience members appreciate the dialogue if they are attuned to this year’s presidential election. Most of us are. Yet, in spite of having learned decades ago from textbooks about the successes, points of view, and compromises of our Founding Fathers, it is safe to say that many playgoers have forgotten a lot of the history. No matter. The trio of actresses brush up our memory.

Photo by Enrico Spada
Maddie Jo Landers, Tangela Large, and Lucy Lavely, all newcomers to this venue, bounce jargon and humor on the subjects of justice and responsibility at a non-stop pace directed by Nicole Ricciardi. Large expresses her two roles (Senate aide and James Monroe) distinctly. Lavely, as a liberal blogger and slave-owning Southerner, makes the most of her parts although a suggestion would be to tone down the verbal volume. Landers shines, particularly as the Miss America wannabe. Her Southern belle accent, charm, and cunning accentuate her job of intermediary between Blue State girl and Red State girl. Each nuance and hand gesture give Miss Georgia the upper hand (pun intended) in the comings and goings.

By no means is “The Taming” a straight forward comedy. Countless undertones and overt insults about the 200-year gap between then and now, between resolve and reality, are at the crux of the plot. Think “Electoral College” – perhaps a smart idea in 1789. But now?