SALT LAKE CITY — It’s interesting how fast the context of a play or musical can change and suddenly what was once edgy or relevant can seem outdated and passé. Such is the case with Lauren Gunderson’s 2013 play The Taming which is being put on by the students at Westminster Theatre. Perhaps more than other genres, political satire tends to be a creature of the moment; and the 10 years between now and when this play was written are enough to make it a very different beast.

That’s not to say the play isn’t interesting. Even though it is messy in its story and structure, it throws a lot of ideas at the audience and asks us all to think about the US Constitution in a new way. It kind of reminded me of What the Constitution Means to Me, which isn’t as much of a satire as The Taming but it asks similar questions.

Gunderson’s play claims to take inspiration from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew but I personally found this to be a major distraction. Aside from the names of the characters, the links to Shakespeare are weak at best. Basically the “character” that needs to be tamed is the US Constitution, and women throughout history make sure that happens.

The second act of The Taming worked better than the first with a startling transition from a modern kidnapping plot to a restaging of the debate between James Madison and Charles Pinckney. Much of their discussion revolves around the Bill of Rights and slavery with Madison finding the practice revolting and Pinckney saying there will be no country without it. The sets do not change from the main hotel room set of the first act for this historical section. The only addition is wigs for the characters that conveyed the change, but were clearly placed on quickly and looked a little disheveled (but since it was a dream sequence, I didn’t really care.)

The modern sections are the parts that ironically feel the most dated. As soon as Patricia, the conservative aid, and Bianca, the liberal blogger, started debating I knew immediately this was written before Donald Trump became president. And as a result, the play felt painfully dated. It seemed strange that these two relative nobodies would be seen as powerful enough to make the kinds of changes to Constitution that Madison and Pinckney could make. We are talking about an aid and a blogger, which are clearly not on the same level as the two Founding Father. Perhaps that was part of the point Gunderson is making, but it felt like a stretch. Also, the play’s content spent a lot of time fighting over pandas’ rights instead of  important issues like women’s reproductive care, gay marriage, climate change and other issues that for these characters (who are both presented as young and gay) would probably be concerned with. All of these points made it painfully clear that the play was written in 2013 when the world was a more politically optimistic place, a time when it felt more believable that that America’s two political parties could just get along and compromise.

All of the acting was strong, although the director Amelie Boissonnas could have helped the actors to moderate their tone occasionally — it felt like 95 minutes of continual shouting. I realize these are issues many feel passionately about (including me), but the play started to lose its comedic edge when everything was presented at a 10 at all times. Even the beauty queen Katherine played by Charlotte Gordon was mostly shouting profanities at the other women. I enjoyed Trinity Medina and Madisen Hone when they were playing Madison and Pinckney respectively more than their modern counterparts, which felt clichéd and unrealistic. However, both actresses put a lot of energy into the roles and they had moments when they sold the comedy well. When Hone appeared as her twin sister who had been stuck in a closet for many hours, her unleashed and manic performance was particularly funny.

Everything else in The Taming is simple. There is one set of a hotel room with a bed and some tables designed by Spencer Brown with sound design mostly from the pageant by Heidi Andre and Griffin Irish. The sound design featured some announcements of the pageant and songs played like “America the Beautiful” and Taylor Swift’s “The Man” being played for a joke or for Gordon to lip sync.

Even though the play felt uneven due to some dated elements, I do recommend giving The Taming a shot. The historical section mostly works, the performances had a lot of energy and it gives audience members something to talk about as they drive home. Sometimes we as theater-goers have to take risks and this one, while flawed, is worth the risk.

The Taming plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from February 29 to March 9, 2024 at 7:30 PM at the Courage Theatre in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Westminster University. Tickets are $0-15. For more information, visit

This review is made possible by a grant from the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks program.