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The Taming 01

Left to right: Alessandra Ferriso (Bianca), Lindsey Esch (Katherine), and Nicole Moussa (Patricia) in a scene from "The Taming." The OSU Theatre production of Lauren Gunderson's political farce opens Thursday night in the Withycombe Hall Lab Theatre on campus. 

Lauren Gunderson, the prolific San Francisco author, is the most-produced playwright in the United States for the 2017-18 season, according to American Theatre magazine. (To be fair, the list doesn't count Shakespeare productions.)

But Gunderson may not be a familiar name to mid-valley audiences.

That changes this weekend, as the Oregon State University Theatre Department stages Gunderson's 2015 political farce, "The Taming," for four performances. (Gunderson also is part of the lineup this year at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland with a new play, "The Book of Will.")

"The Taming," which is very loosely based on "The Taming of the Shrew," is a full-volume, high-speed political farce in which a Southern beauty pageant contestant locks a conservative Senate staffer and a liberal blogger into a hotel room. The beauty pageant contestant (Katherine, played by Lindsey Esch) has a motive behind this scheme: She thinks the U.S. Constitution should be rewritten. In fact, at one point, the play takes a historical side trip back to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Sparks fly from the start between Patricia, the Senate staffer (played by Nicole Moussa), and Bianca, the liberal (played by Alessandra Ferriso). 

OSU theater student PJ Harris is directing the play, and one of the things she likes about it is that Gunderson doesn't pull any punches.

"She says what she means in the most honest and brutal way," Harris said.

And Gunderson herself isn't shy about hiding her political leanings: She allowed free staged readings of the play on Donald Trump's inauguration day, thinking that it might give a lift to people feeling despair over the election.

Like any farce, "The Taming" has to be played at high speed. But Harris said her three actresses have been up to the challenge. 

"I am very proud of this show," Harris said. "Everybody is so involved in the message behind the play."

She thinks the play has something important to say about the nature of patriotism in a divisive political climate. 

And it has another message as well, she said: "Don't be afraid of change. Tradition is not always best."

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