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That mysterious hanging comma is part of the title of the seriocomic Or, by playwright Liz Duffy Adams, now being presented by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park in an uneven production at its Paseo space. The tiny word comes up later in the play when a character disparages plays with “or” titles, like Twelfth Night or, What You Will and Deadwood Dick or, The Game of Gold!

Even when the company presents modern plays, OSP never strays from its devotion to historical theater. Although fictional, Or, has characters who were real people and is based loosely on actual events. (The program includes two pages of highly informative notes you should read before the play begins.)

This 2010 play involves Aphra Behn (1640-1689), who scholars say was the first woman to make a living as a playwright; Nell Gwynne (1650-1687), a famous comic actress; and Charles II (1630-1685, reigned 1660-1685), king of England. The play takes place in London in 1666-1670, so the Restoration is underway, and Charles rules on the throne. Palace intrigues, spies, trysts of various combinations, assassination plots, disguises, blackmail and snooping servants abound in Or,. It’s all terribly Shakespearean.

Duffy Adams has written the script in both rhyme and prose. Her dialog is salty, and the play has about as much 1966 as 1666.

Directed by Laura Standley, this three-hander features some of the best acting theatergoers have seen this season. If some of that acting were any broader, however, it would be outside the building. Granted, the play is written this way, which explains why Standley and the cast barely pause to take a breath.

Kathryn McGill plays Aphra. Wil Rogers is Charles II and other roles, notably Lady Davenant, in a scene that drew exit applause at the reviewed performance. Ashley Frisbee plays Nell and other roles.

For this production, OSP has built a raised platform at one end of its rectangular space, which creates good sightlines. Jeremy Winchester’s scenic design is spare and effective. Robert Pittenridge has long been OSP’s expert costume designer, and he does fine work in this production with handsome, detailed period costumes. He must have used a lot of Velcro, because some quick changes are required.

If you note the above dates, you’ll see Aphra would be 26-30 years old during the time of the play. McGill is obviously older than that, although she plays the part with the energy and stamina of a 20-year-old.

But this casting changes the tenor of the production. Key features of the play are Aphra’s youth and ambitiousness as she aspires to a writing career. She’s saucy and precocious and has endured some hardships that made her mature for her years. And her relationship with Nell, who would be in her late teens at the time of the play, would be changed. An Aphra who is decades older than Nell would be more like a beloved aunt than a BFF. The casting isn’t a fatal flaw. It’s something theatergoers can discuss over post-show drinks.

Or, Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park
Thursday, July 20th, 2017 8:00pm to Sunday, July 23rd, 2017 2:00pm
2920 Paseo
Oklahoma City, OK 73103
Prices from: $25.00

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About the Author

Larry Laneer

Larry Laneer has reviewed theater for several Oklahoma City publications.  He has...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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