Through Dec. 11
WSC Avant Bard
The Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two
2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, Va.
Shakespeare’s controversial classic “The Taming of the Shrew” rubs some people the wrong way. The romance of hellcat Katherine, who’s made marriageable only after fortune hunter Petruchio tames her through varying forms of abuse, is less than modern and when done without irony can be downright offensive.
But emerging playwright Jonelle Walker’s “TAME.,” currently playing at WSC Avant Bard, turns the old tale on its ear.
“While her new play borrows a few pieces from the original, it’s entirely different. In short, it’s feminist as fuck,” says up-and-coming actor Jill Tighe who plays Cat, a young lesbian mourning the death of her girlfriend.
When we meet Cat, she has just returned to her parents’ house in small-town, 1960 Anahuac, Texas. Three months prior, Cat left Smith College grief-stricken because her lesbian lover committed suicide. In the interim, she prowled downtown Manhattan like a wounded animal where she wrote and hung out with beatniks and junkies.
Back home in swampy, gator-ridden Anahauc, Cat is introduced to Patrick (Brendan Edward Kennedy), a shady youth minister entrusted with ridding her of homosexuality and bringing her back to Jesus via cruel means.
“Cat actually enjoys it,” says Tighe (sounds like Tie). “I know that doesn’t sound very feminist, but it is. After going through a lot of stuff, Cat wins in a big way. I won’t say how. You need to come see it for yourself.”
Directed by Angela Kay Pirko, “TAME.” began as a staged reading over a year ago. From the start, Tighe was smitten with the script and her part.
“Though raw and hurt at the tragic loss of her first love, Cat is always the smartest woman in the room and knows it. To me she’s the brightest light of a match that burns bright and flames out too quickly. Like a Zelda Fitzgerald or poet Sylvia Plath. And because she’s so smart, Cat becomes bored when others can’t keep up. Eventually that boredom turns into anger.”
Insightful and bisexual, Tighe, 25, relates to Cat.
“I’m not the smartest in the room by any means. In D.C. I’m surrounded by brilliant artists. But I can relate to Cat’s feelings of bitterness related to not being understood for who you are or who you love. But that’s in the past for me,” says Tighe citing her relationship with fellow actor Melissa Hmelnicky who also identifies as bisexual.
Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Tighe played a lot of sports, yet she quit the basketball team in high school (much to her father’s chagrin) to be in the school’s musical. From there on she was hooked. During her senior year, Tighe took part in a pre-professional program that allowed her to spend half the day acting. She went on to study theater at Baldwin Wallace University and then moved to D.C. to pursue a career in acting.
Tighe likes the way Cat is made up of raw fury.
“‘Tame’ is something you’ve never seen before,” she says. “It’s a rejoinder to earlier productions where Katherine isn’t allowed to be angry. She’s not afraid to mourn and to be angry at the world for taking the love of her life away from her. Cat is not afraid to voice that fury. We don’t usually see women do that on stage. Men do that a lot. Hamlet and other male characters freely voice their anger. Female characters not so much.”