Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Taming
Marin Shakespeare Company
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's reviews of Forever Plaid and "Master Harold" ... and the boys and Richard's review of Cabaret

Monica Ho, Tristan Cunningham and Katie Rubin
Photo by Lori A. Cheung
Robert and Lesley Currier, Artistic Directors of the Marin Shakespeare Company, have decided not to present a Shakespeare play for the first offering in their award-winning outdoor summer Shakespeare Festival this year. Instead, they are opening the season with Lauren Gunderson's smart and funny The Taming, a wild satire on the social political era here and now. What with the idiocy of the 2016 United States presidential election, the timing is flawless for this modern political farce.

The plot takes place mostly in a locked hotel room in Atlanta with three women: Katherine (Tristan Cunningham), a Miss America finalist who wants to shatter the American political system and create an entirely new format for democracy through constitutional law; a well-worn senator's assistant named Patricia (Katie Rubin), who is a strict conservative; and Bianca (Monica Ho), a cantankerous liberal activist and blogger. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose with these diverse women. The playwright has created a world that exists today with the three actresses accurately depicting current American types.

The scene at the beginning of the second act is a fantasy in which the women take on male drag outfits with wigs. The audience is transported to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The characters are Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, James Madison, and George Washington, with Monica Ho as Pinckney and Katie Rubin as Madison, reversing their sides of the political spectrum, while Tristan Cunningham does triple duty as George Washington and two future first ladies. We see fights and threats among them, such as debates about keeping slavery in the constitution, the formation of the Electoral College, and property-owning white men originally being the only ones permitted to vote. The play eventually returns to the locked hotel room for a surprising ending.

All three actresses throw themselves into the characters and give great and campy performances. Tristan Cunningham gives a perfect performance as Miss Georgia, the constitutional law graduate who not only wants to be the most successful pageant queen but a political power in the country. Katie Rubin is excellent as Patricia, who is big on rage, and booms through misrepresentations with terrific skill and beautiful diction. Monica Ho is impressive as Bianca, the liberal blogger-journalist with a mission who seems more invested in self-promotion than in preserving an endangered rodent.

Robert S. Currier directs this 90-minute comedy with the pinpoint comic timing of a bedroom farce. He has also added six shapely young women in swimsuits as Miss America contestants to move furniture while dancing about the stage and to act as the backup for Miss Georgia. Tammy Berlin's vibrant costumes are in line with both 1787 and modern eras. Set designer Jackson Currier's bedroom set that changes into a Constructional Congress set in 1787 is effective.

The Taming runs through July 17, 2016, at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 890 Belle Ave, San Rafael, For tickets call 415-499-4488 or visit Coming up next will be William Shakespeare's gender-bending celebration of mischief and mirth, Twelfth Night, starting on July 29 and running through August 21. The final production of the summer season will be Shakespeare's Othello starting on September 2 and ending September 25th.

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