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The Taming

a Comedy
by Lauren Gunderson

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Peachtree Playhouse
ID# 5287

SHOWING : June 01, 2018 - June 24, 2018



Will a Miss America contestant, a liberal blogger, and a conservative senatorial staffer successfully re-write the Constitution and resolve partisan politics? Worth a shot, right? Lauren Gunderson is at it again with an outrageous political farce with laughs for both sides of the aisle. Two political rivals, a beauty queen, and a kidnapping. American politics just got delightfully absurd.

Director Suehyla El-Attar
Lighting Designer Elisabeth Cooper
Bianca Jimmica Collins
Patricia Kelly Criss
Katherine Caroline Freedlund
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by playgoer
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
Lauren Gunderson’s highly political comedy "The Taming" borrows two character names from Shakespeare’s "The Taming of the Shrew" and includes a speech paralleling its "I am ashamed that women are so simple," but with the point that congress must swear fealty to the constitution (instead of women swearing fealty to men). Otherwise, Ms. Gunderson’s play has next to nothing to do with Shakespeare (although its female cast take on pants roles in the second act).

Suehyla El-Attar has done a terrific job directing her three actresses to give delightful performances in all their roles: Caroline Arapoglou as a perky Miss Georgia, a blustery George Washington, a bossy Martha Washington, and a boozy Dolley Madison; Jimmica Collins as a liberal blogger, her identical twin Republican intern, and slave-owning Continental Congress delegate Charles Pinckney; and Kelly Criss as an aide to a powerful Republican senator and as James Madison. Their characters are all distinct in bearing and posture and speech, and terrific wigs and costumes by Cole Spivia aid spectacularly in delineating these different personas.

Shannon Robert’s scene design is nifty, starting out in front of a gauzy curtain that is parted to reveal a hotel room that is then converted into a Continental Congress workroom for part of act two before reverting to a hotel room. A simple panel downstage functions both as a projection screen and as a White House office background for the final scenes. Elisabeth Cooper’s lighting design and Dan Bauman’s sound design cover the extended scene changes nicely, although both can be a tad overwhelming (lighting in terms of flashing laser-like beams and sound in terms of volume). One outstanding feature of the set is a pair of hotel room windows with a lovely city view that revolve in act two. Jillian A. Haughey’s props add to the visual appeal of the production.

The first act of the show is a pure delight. Ms. Criss is a riot as a repressed Republican, playing off against the beauty queen steel-disguised-as-sweetness of Ms. Arapoglou and the fiery rants of Ms. Collins. The second act, which features a fantasy sequence in which the women become personalities involved in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, comes across as a history lesson tricked out with modern-day jargon and attitudes. It’s Ms. Gunderson being clever and silly, and it dilutes the impact of the play. It becomes clear that these characters are mouthpieces in a political debate rather than flesh-and-blood individuals. When the plot plays out with standard-issue comic devices, it’s clear that this play wants both to be thought-provoking and to work as mindless entertainment. It doesn’t quite come off.

Ms. El-Attar does splendid work as a director, and the three actresses are all given numerous chances to shine. But they don’t just shine; Ms. Arapoglou lights up the stage like a spectacular fireworks display, and Ms. Criss provides the smoldering, slow-burning fuse that sets it ablaze. Ms. Collins? I guess she’d be the flame that ignites the fuse. All-in-all, this is a terrific production of a second-rate play. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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