It's a really fun premise for a comedy: three politically diverse women (who are all attracted to each other in various ways) navigate through a minefield of intellectual and carnal distractions in order to get work done that could actually save the nation from itself.
Voices Found Repertory joins-up with Sunstone Studios this month to present a limited-run of playwright Lauren Gunderson’s The Taming. The farce imagines women of two political extremes brought together by a beautiful force looking to do some good. The three of them are forced together in an attempt to solve all of the problems of the nation in time for a Miss America pageant event that will be taking place in just a few hours.
Samantha Sostarich plays a beauty pageant contestant who aspires to go beyond superficial politics the her social platform segment of the Miss America contest. She figures that the only way to straighten everything out is to totally re-write the constitution. Sure it’s ambitious, but the nation isn’t going to save itself and much has been accomplished under the comedy of extreme pressure in the course of the nation’s history.
Forced into aiding the beauty queen in her quest are a conservative political expert named Pat (Kaylene Howard) and an ultra-progressive blogger named Bianca (Caroline Norton.) Pat and Bianca wake-up in a hotel room together quite uncertain of how they might have ended up there. Pat isn’t wearing pants. Bianca isn’t able to post anything to her blog. Neither of them have their phones. After a quick series of revelations about how they might have come to be where they are, Pat and Bianca are joined by the woman who drugged them in the interest of securing their support.
Gunderson’s script is light, fast-paced political satire. The comedy rolls and ricochets around with transitions between scenes and revelations that can feel pretty drastic. The overall energy of a script like this is very difficult to keep grounded between transitions. The play moves like a dream fugue, so the action can feel pretty disjointed. Director Maggie Marks keeps everything rolling swiftly from moment to moment. Each of the energies onstage is firmly grounded.
Sostarich is beautifully dazzling as the charismatic, super-heroic leader. Howard wields an idealistic gravity about her as the politico looking to make a difference. Norton has deftly subtle comic instincts as the revolutionary disruptor. Marks has fostered a comedic celerity in the cast that allows for a sharpness of wit in subtle shifts of tone and inflection that make for an entertainingly textured comedy.
Political comedy requires rapid-fire embrace of an ever-expanding complexity that Gunderson’s script clearly embraces. The current political climate isn’t perfectly reflected. (The play was originally published in 2015 kind of a lot has happened since then.) It's impossible for any political comedy to be totally up-to-date more than a year after it was written, but the root causes of A LOT of problems are addressed. Issues with US political life echo surprisingly well with striking (and comically depressing) detail for something over half a decade old. Sostarich, Howard and Norton are hip and sophisticated in a farce that is pleasantly enchanted by that strangely persistent phantom of the ever-elusive American dream.
Sunstone Studios and Voices Found Repertory’s production of The Taming runs through November 13th at Sunstone Studios’ space on 127 East Wells St. For ticket reservations and more, visit Sunstone Studios online.
(On a personal note, I've always wondered how much of the political comedy I love comes from simply agreeing with the perspective of the comedy. Honestly...I probably was laughing at this one a bit more than I might...I mean...it feels so good to hear some of these things out loud. A few minor disagreements aside, I'm solidly on Gunderson's side with most of what she's expressing here. Term limits for the US Supreme Court? Yes! Abolish the Electoral College? Yes! She even refers to the Second Amendment as "the militia amendment." Yes! ("How could anyone misinterpret that?") For me Gunderson's script feels a lot like coming home. It's fun.)