The regional rep company is facing bankruptcy and has one chance to survive: presenting THE TAMING OF THE SHREW with minimal production values to raise money. Always a popular comedy, the show has the added fillip of a movie star, the still-somewhat-famous Helena Saunders, appearing as Kate. She considers it an act of altruism on her part, a quality that has seldom surfaced through her considerable ego. Her discovery at the first read-through of Gretchen, the former wife of Bret Black — a piece of slick scum whom Helena stole away from Gretchen two decades before — is a shock.
Gretchen happens to be cast as Kate’s younger sister, Bianca, an age comparison about which Helena is furiously sensitive. This brings on the first crisis for the play’s director, Greg. The second is when he realizes that the self-same Bret Black fathered Gretchen’s son, Jamie, who is playing a young Petruchio to Helena’s “mature” Kate.
The rest of the acting company, a varied crew of vast experience, wicked reflection and a blasé reaction to theatrical dilemmas, wryly observe the struggles that develop and resolve into sudden solutions beyond even their jaded expectations. As rehearsals continue, Helena and Gretchen work through their troubled history. When the theatre goes under and the production of SHREW is cancelled, they recruit the company to travel with them to Aspen in an escapade to confront Bret Black and force him to repay the moneys that he stole from both of them, plus interest. It seems that Bret Black wrote a roman à clef about the two women, sold it to the movies and subsequently made a fortune as a screenwriter and “consultant” to starlets to whom he promises stardom that he claims to have provided to Helena Saunders.
What they discover at Bret Black’s Aspen mansion is not at all what they expected, including his current protégée, Carlotta Crauxis-Serrano, a former ballet dancer inclined to bikinis who is determined to learn how to act. She also turns out to be unexpected in ways that aid Helena’s and Gretchen’s revenge on Bret Black. Most unexpected of all is that the production of TAMING OF THE SHREW is revived and succeeds in settling all outstanding issues.
(The play is written in two acts, the first on a bare rehearsal stage with occasional furniture, the second in an Aspen living room with a view. The cast numbers ten.)
A Scene from Theatre Farce
(Lights are up on stage for Act II, scene 1, the courting scene, Petruchio and Kate. They are off book. Those actors not in the scene sit or stand near the wings, studying lines.)
Just the table and two stools, center. Petruchio lounges on the stage right one, as Katherina storms in up left. I’ve got some new business.
“Good morrow, Kate, for that’s your name I hear.”
“Well have you heard, but something hard of hearing: They call me Katherine that do talk of me.”
“You lie, in faith,…”
You leap up, Petruchio….
Like a panther…
You want her to see how big you are.
Like an elephant.
“You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate, and bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst….”
Ah, not quite so heavy, Petruchio. You’re courting her, iron fist in a velvet glove kind of thing.
Right, sorry. “But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom, …”
Now you go back to your stool and sit, but with no weight on the stool. Your foot and arm hold you.
“Hearing thy mildness praised in every town,
Thy virtues spoke of, and thy beauty sounded,
Yet not so deeply as to you belongs,
Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife.”
“‘Moved’ in good time….”
You yell that.
You’re a little bit intrigued, but you don’t want to show it.
So I yell at him?
Overcompensation. Try it.
“MOVED, IN GOOD TIME! Let him that moved you hither remove you hence. I knew at the first you were a movable.”
And you yank the stool out from under him. But he doesn’t fall, just stays there. You’re furious, but again intrigued.
“Why, what’s a movable?”
“A joined stool.”
You swing it at his head, he grabs your arm, sits on the table and swings you into his lap.
“Thou hast hit it. Come sit on me.”
“Asses are made to bare and so are you.”
“Women are made to bare and so are you”
Ah, she’s angry, Petruchio, not you. You’re having a good time with her.
Katherine, you do fight him, but it’s the first time a man has held you, maybe in your life.
I don’t want to be that close to him. How the hell am I going to look young enough for that kid? I’m old enough to be his mother.
(Jamie glances at Gretchen in the wings. Helena sees it.)
Helena, by this time, Petruchio and the audience are so dazzled by you that any age difference won’t matter. Until then, you’re …
Good old Kate!
And Petruchio, there’s something about her that even at this point is kind of exciting.
I wish I knew what it was.
What the hell does that mean?!
And what the hell do you have to do with it?!
She’s my mother!
She’s your what?!
Uh-oh, that explains it.
I knew they were living together, but I thought, …
Hey, you sure got your mother’s genes, kid.
She’s your what?!
Could we go on?
(She leaves the stage. Greg follows. Dressing room table comes on.)
I’d bet a half hour.
Anyone play gin rummy?
Let’s all have some water. Lansing?
I, um, I don’t really like water.
Well, you should learn to like it! Your intestines, large and small, are a thirty-six-foot-long sewer full of your disgusting waste!
Oh. I’m so sorry…