Elizabeth Hurd Review: 'Or' a masterful production from Shakespeare in the Park on Paseo
Liz Duffy Adams is a fascinating playwright, but playwright Aphra Behn has nearly been forgotten, and Adams brings her to life in the comic story of a transformative night in Behn’s life. ,
Before becoming a playwright, Behn was a spy working for Charles II, a life she wished to leave behind. She has a chance to have her play produced, almost a miracle in England in the 1660s for a woman. This is her opportunity to leave behind her life as an operator for Charles II and his restoration as England’s Monarch, but not the life it brings. One of intrigue that creates hilarity and unusual love matches for Aphra Behn, King Charles, Nell Gwynne and William Scot. Unfortunately all the flurry of bedroom antics and partner switching takes place while Aphra Behn is on deadline. It is common for the horrible word "deadline" to make writers extremely distraught, and leave it to friends, lovers, family and enemies to unite in their efforts to make meeting any deadline nearly impossible and usually not as well-written as the writer prefers.
Director Laura Standley understands this quite well, and as a result the characters she brings to life give us a clear insight into the historical period, the historical personages and the triumph of liberty and libertines! This one night may be fictional, but like all drama, it is a lie that reveals the truth. The truth is that three marvelous actors have worked hard and well to bring Standley’s vision to life on a magically marvelous set in the smallish Paseo space.
Kathryn McGill, artistic/executive director of Shakespeare in the Park, is quite wonderful as the beautiful Aphra Behn. Her subtle expressions of frustrations flitting from fickle distractions give a power to the writer’s dilemma. Writers want to be distracted, they would much rather spend the time in amorous dalliance, but they have the deadline hovering over their heads with determined depressive necessity. And yet, each distraction becomes an inspiration to the work.
Wil Rogers is Charles II, marvelously disdainful, and then he is William Scot, devilishly deceitful, and he is even briefly Lady Davenant, a 17th century version of demanding executive producer believing that writing is quick and easy.
Ashley Frisbee is the famous actress Nell Gwynne, and also the Jailer and Maria. Her three diverse characters range from outrageous to outlandish to outbluffing, but in every case, outstanding.
McGill, Rogers and Frisbee are excellent choices in this three-man cast with seven characters, but they certainly have wonderful assistance from Jeremy Winchester, production designer and Kaitlyn Souter, production stage manager, and Maria Doutey, assistant stage manager. Mark Branson and Richard Johns are the carpenters that make the wonderful set work. Erin Noble, stage manager intern definitely has a hand in the production of this show.
Joshua Robbins is the lighting designer, making everything look wonderful and real; Souter also is properties master. Shakespeare in the Park’s Company dramaturg works well with Standley as assistant director and Kae Koger is an excellent dramaturg. Costuming by Robert Pittenridge is beautiful and built with some creative simplicity to enable Benjamin Burton to function as the dresser. Technically the show is put together exceptionally well in every regard. With that amount of support, the cast should never fail, and this cast certainly succeeds! “Or” is a knockout excellent production with superb performances from everyone and nary a distraction. The show is not long and therefore there is no intermission needed. (Although one should take advantage of the facilities if one indulges in the bar.)
The play is being performed at the Paseo location in the Paseo Arts District at 2920 Paseo. Tickets and information are available online at www.oklahomashakespeare.com or call 405-235-3700. The show runs through Sunday, July 23, 2017 with a 2 p.m. matinee. Curtain is 8 p.m. for all evening performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.