Iowa City – Are we all sick of politics? I know I am. But I’ll tell you what I’m not sick of – funny people skewering the political landscape. I have been enjoying Saturday Night Live and John Oliver’s witty take on the insanity that is our political process. If that sort of political satire is your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out Riverside Theatre’s latest production, The Taming by Lauren Gunderson.
A conservative senatorial aide, a liberal political activist and a newly-crowned Miss Georgia are trapped in a hotel room together. As would be expected, the conservative and liberal trade barbs. But Miss Georgia, played by Jordan Arnold, has a plan. She wants to change our country and she needs Pat, the conservative played by Kristy Hartsgrove Mooers, and Bianca, the liberal played by Cara Clonch Viner, to help her with this grand plan.
The laughs come quickly and often as all three actresses know how to mine the humor in the script. Hartsgrove is particularly good at showing the humor as well as her character’s vulnerability with a glance skyward or a narrowing of the eyes. Arnold commands the stage as the beauty queen (who also happens to be a constitutional law scholar). She pulls your attention every moment she’s on stage. Viner does a good job as the in-over-her-head activist, but the script really does her character a disservice by making her the least likable (and realistic) of the three characters.
The script has other strange twists and turns that don’t always work well. For instance, the dream sequence that takes us back to colonial times as two of the founding fathers discuss whether or not to include slavery in the constitution really slowed down the action. The humor in that segment didn’t feel as organic as the earlier scenes. Martha Washington as a shrew and Dolly Madison as a drunk were cheap laughs compared to the witty and intelligent humor of the first scenes. The actresses did play these scenes well, particularly Arnold as President Washington, but I was happy when the action returned to the present.
The set was well done. Designer Shawn Ketchum Johnson created a very realistic hotel room. Be sure to watch the flag on the wall to catch a clever set dressing change!
Director Angie Toomsen does an excellent job with the staging of the show. For instance, she smartly staged the beginning moments of the show downstage center, with Miss Georgia center and the two other actors to either side of her. At the end of the show, she again places them center stage, taking us full circle. The contrast between the women’s posture and attitude at the beginning and the end of the show encapsulates their journey together.
The theme of the play was about working together to compromise and make real changes to make our country a better place. Toward the end of the play, Miss Georgia rattles off some changes that honestly made a whole lot of sense to me. I hope some of our political leaders are listening!
The Taming is a fun show showcasing the skills of three excellent comedic actresses. I would encourage you to check it out. It runs through November 13. Tickets are available here.