Opening Nights: The Taming

The Taming

ArtsWest, 4711 California Ave. S.W., 938-0339, $15–$34. 7:30 p.m. Wed.–Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. Ends Oct. 19.

Riffing on Shakespeare, playwright Lauren Gunderson (Exit, Pursued by a Bear) has created a rare specimen: a political comedy that’s fair-handed and funny. In an era when single-perspective pummeling usually rules the ring, she actually gives a little advantage to the conservative side. (Goodness knows it needs the help, especially in liberal Seattle.) ArtsWest’s canny young cast pitches into the acid whimsy with gusto, directed by Tammis Doyle.

When Republican senate staffer Patricia (Dayo Anderson) wakes up in a hotel room with Bianca (Anna Townes), a liberal blogger “truesading” for the welfare of a shrew species endangered by the senator’s bill, we expect a familiar hostage plot. But it emerges that both players—costumed by Jocelyn Fowler in the red and blue of their respective teams—have been captured by Miss Georgia contestant Katherine (Justine Rose Stillwell), whose aspirations for the lofty platform go way beyond shaking her peaches. Indeed, she has forced the polarized reps to this bunker to help her redraft the U.S. Constitution. Predictably, both resist; but unpredictably, amid the clever sniping, they glimpse their own inanities and blind spots.

It’s an attitude so refreshingly bipartisan my brain needed to build some new receptors to process it. Two whole acts would be too long for the hotel room, but fortunately the three gals get catapulted back to 1787. Suddenly they find themselves wigged as James Madison (Anderson), George Washington (Stillwell), and ignoble slavery defender Charles Pinckney (Townes). Part of the play’s efficacy comes from this clever reversing of political poles, as the foes are forced to sniff the other side’s snuff. This diversion works without explanation.

Some other plot twists are more dubious, but so confident and entertaining is the writing that Gunderson gets away with them. They’re justifiable guerrilla infractions in the war against bull-headed despair, and since they result in a gridlock-busting vision many are hungry for—huzzah!

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