Frankly, we’ve been needing a bit of silliness in our lives lately so hurrah, hurrah for Theatre 22’s currently running stage production of OR, the delightful farce by Liz Duffy Adams onstage at the Green Lake Bathhouse Theater. Some of you theater nerd types might remember “Or,” from a much loved production at Seattle Rep about ten years ago. Happily, the cleverly written play has aged well…in fact, in might have improved with age.
Or, is certainly a very timely play. It’s set in a period of time after a disastrous conservative regime has nearly destroyed the country and just after a horrible plague has devasted the lives of everyone. It also features gossip, innuendo, spying, skulduggery, rampant lustiness, gender bending and non-conformity!
No, Or, isn’t set in 2022…it’s set in London in 1666! After the restoration of King Charles the II after years of Puritan rule and the years of the plague! But, it all seems very familiar to a 2022 audience…for some reason.
Or, centers on Aphra Behn an actual 17th century playwright, spy, and woman of the world. The play opens with Aphra in debtor’s prison for being arrears on her bills because the government hasn’t paid her for her spy work. Fortunately for Aphra, randy old King Charles himself appears to pay off her debts and free her. He’d also like a bit “more” but Aphra is hesitant to start up a full fledge affair with Charles who has a history of loving and leaving a long line of mistresses.
The play then changes setting to Aphra’s new lodgings where she’s hard at work at completing her first play and hopefully getting a chance to get it produced at the King’s Company under the ownership of Lady D’Avenant who is in desperate need of new plays to produce. Aphra, looked over by her devoted maid servant, is frantically trying to finish her play but she’s distracted by her new friend, actress Nell Gwynne plus visits from randy King Charlie AND the sudden appearance of her old spy partner William Scot who may or may not be a double agent and who may or may not be plotting to kill Charles.
Aphra is trying to get all these distractions from meeting one another which requires lots of door slamming and shoving of people into closets and spare rooms to keep them apart.
Under the wrong hands farce can be a deathly bore but fortunately director Julie Beckman knows how to keep all those ridiculous balls juggling in mid-air without dropping any…the show is mostly fast paced and delightfully fun and aided by a cast of only three people playing all the roles (and all of them based on actual people). Actually, two of the actors play multiple roles while Hazel Rose Gibson plays only one, the central role of Aphra. She was a bit tentative in the first scene of the play but she did a fine job taking central stage once the play kicks into high gear as the more grounded character surrounded by all the zaniness of the other larger than life characters.
Corey McDaniel was deliciously ham-handed (in the best sense) in three roles, as frisky King Charles and a comedically menacing William Scot and most endearingly, as the dementedly hilarious Lady D’avenant.
And, Alanah Pascuel was also delightful playing a couple of small roles (a suspicious jailer and the loyal maid) but mostly as the lusty, charming, Cockney actress Nell Gwynne who is happy to make out with anyone who strikes their fancy. It’s a sexy, delightful performance.
Design work is good especially Parmida Ziaei’s appropriately “ye olde” set design and Jocelyne Fowler’s fun, colorful costumes.
Or, is a helluva funny play and a helluva good way to spend an evening or an afternoon in the theater, away from worries of Puritans and Plagues and Putin.
Check it out.