The Untamed Shrews
Shortly after calling the Cracker’s box office with a plus-one ticket request, my phone rang. Ruth Anne Herber-Bunting — czar, traffic cop, publicist and gatekeeper at Crackers — was calling to fact check. Was I really surely sure I wanted to see the Untamed Shrews? “They’re really racy,” she warned, sounding embarrassed, like someone watching a bin of their lacy things getting pawned at a garage sale. Ruth Anne is no blushing Puritan, so the hook was set. So nasty I might want to avert my eyes? Sister, sign me up in ink; I’ll be there early.
The Shrews are one part Marge Tackes, a Windy City tough girl with bleach blonde hair, short skirts and a mouth like a sailor … with Tourette’s. Her compatriot, the Amazonian redhead Susan Smith, is a Trojan horse: a delightfully (with the stress on fully) debased pervert tucked inside a sweet-talking Southern belle. They perform individually, each of them hot talking their way through a short, positively sex-centric set, before uniting on stage for a finale whose vaudevillian undertones were ideally suited to the subject matter.
Tackes is bold, a mature beauty who knows how to shake the wares for maximum effect. With a throaty, go-for-it stage persona, she was reminiscent of a peroxided, wise-cracking Joan Jett. Her material comes at you straight, like a hard jab. There’s no nuance, but plenty of impact.
Smith, on the other hand, is a beautifully blended cup. Jumping from brash to brazen to demure and back, she creates a ton of motion and drama, more in tune with a one-woman stage production than stand-up comedy. She had the efficient, focused, full-body movements of a trained entertainer. She didn’t just punctuate her humor with facial expressions like most comedians. She used her hands, body posture … really her whole demeanor. A pleasure to watch for the craftsmanship alone.
The Shrews are shrewd. They didn’t have to recreate a new type of comedy. The circuit is thick with dirty-talking frat boys spinning tales of sexual desire, dysfunction and conquest. The Shrews just repacked the shtick in lipstick and lacy things and it works. Women in the driver’s seat, men gleefully playing the rube. Proof positive that a good pussy joke from a pretty girl will get you places.