The play is a fictionalized account of real people in late 17th century England - playwright and former spy Aphra Behn, King of England and theater supporter Charles II, and his mistress, the actress Nell Gwyn. This is not the first play I've seen about these characters; last year's Compleat Female Stage Beauty by Walking Shadow also featured Charles II and Nell Gwyn, but focused more on the consequences of Charles allowing women on the stage to play female roles formerly played by young men. But while that play is a pretty dramatic and deep, Or, is pure comedy fluff written in the style of Restoration Comedy, which Wikipedia tells me is "notorious for its sexual explicitness." There certainly is a lot of that in the play, as the three main characters form a relationship that could be called a polyamorous* triad (thank you Shonda Rhimes) - a true love triangle. Charles is Aphra's "keeper," Aphra and Nell are lovers, and then Charles meets Nell. The three live happily ... well, at least for the moment.
|the happy threesome|
The period costumes by Annie Cady are gorgeous, from Nell's smart and boyish pants, to the king's beautiful coat, to Aphra's elaborate dresses. The set by Michael Hoover is simple, spacious, and elegant, with plenty of doors for the actors to disappear behind and make their quick change. Also adding to the period feel is the music played before the show and during scene changes - a sort of chamber music arrangement of Beatles songs.
All in all I found Or, to be very enjoyable. I'm not sure that all of the complexities of plot work, but it's a very fun piece with a great cast, nicely directed by Leah Cooper. A play written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starring a woman is definitely something I can support, especially when it's this good.
Or, from Park Square Theatre on Vimeo.
*See also this recent episode of Our America with Lisa Ling.