A liberal blogger, a conservative senator’s aide and a Miss America contestant are locked in a hotel room together.
What sounds like the beginning of a joke is actually the premise of an uproarious political comedy opening at the Whidbey Playhouse this weekend. “The Taming,” a three-woman play by Lauren Gunderson, runs April 1-16.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” this modern satire is set at a Miss America competition, where Miss Georgia has kidnapped the ambitious assistant of a prominent Republican senator and an environmentalist “social media soldier” to help her fulfill her pageant platform of rewriting the U.S. Constitution.
Though the show features a humorous take on today’s boiling partisan rhetoric, Tamra Sipes, who plays Pat, the senator’s aide, said that at its core, “The Taming” is simply an entertaining and informative look at where America’s founding document came from.
“It is a political satire. There are some things in there that are truths, there are some things in there that are fun,” she said.
Rehearsals kicked off just after auditions in early February. Director Kevin Meyer, who has been directing theater productions since the 1970s, said he has rarely seen a cast develop a performance so organically.
“They had grasped the character that I saw in the auditions,” he said of the three leading women. “I knew they were what I wanted for the characters, and that just grew and grew.”
The production’s script contains fast-paced dialogue. One challenge of a show with a small cast, Meyer said, is that each character has many lines to memorize.
Abby Thuet, who plays Katherine, the pageant queen, said she and her cast mates recorded a reading of the script together and listened to it repeatedly throughout the rehearsal process.
Dianna Gruenwald, who plays Bianca, the blogger, said the show’s fast turnaround also posed a challenge, not only for cast and crew members, but also for their families.
“The rehearsal schedule was pretty intense for people that have families and lives and jobs,” she said.
The actresses’ families still got time with the show’s stars, however, by helping them rehearse. Sipes said she enlisted the help of her family members while learning her many lines — often to their dismay, she joked. Her children tired quickly of running lines with her, something they have done during many of her past shows, she said.
“By the time they get here, they know the play by heart from having read it so many times,” she said, laughing.
Thuet’s family also became accustomed to hearing her practice.
“It’s hard on our families, but it’s also fun for our families,” she said. “My three-year-old is talking with a southern accent lately.”
Gruenwald said one of her favorite parts of this show has been getting to define the character. Since “The Taming” is a lesser-known production, she hasn’t been confined by others’ expectations of what the character is supposed to be.
As she noted, the characters are caricatures of personality types. Meyer agreed, saying he sees each of the three characters as one third of a whole person.
For Thuet, the stereotypes evident in each character are important to the message of the play; as each stereotype gradually gets turned on its head, the characters must look beyond the restraints of their personal convictions to admit that they don’t know as much as they thought they did and embrace a new idea.
“Which happened to be my idea,” she added in her Miss Georgia accent.
Meyer said he hopes audience members will take away from the performance that individuals can have a big influence on their communities, whether they’re pushing to rewrite the Constitution or get potholes on their street paved over.
“You don’t have to have an army behind you. You can be an army of one,” he said.
Friday and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday performances begin at 2:30 p.m. There will be one additional Saturday matinee at 2:30 p.m. April 16. For those not comfortable attending in person, the show will be livestreamed April 1, with the video available on-demand between April 8 and 16.