Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Aphra Behn

A beautiful woman sits writing in a debtor's prison in 1660. A masked man enters. Rather than being frightened, the beautiful woman is intrigued. And why not? This particular beautiful woman is Aphra Behn, who, as depicted in Liz Duffy Adams's energetic sex farce Or, (no, it's not a typo, the title really is Or,), is completely unflappable. Indeed, what other sort of woman could have achieved success as both a spy and a playwright in the seventeenth century, as the real Aphra Behn did? While Or, is funny, fast, and well-written, and the three actors (Kelly Hutchinson, Andy Paris, and Maggie Siff) are skilled and entertaining, I wanted more for--and about--Aphra Behn. Adams said in an interview with Adam Szymkowicz that she didn't want "to write a straightforward bio-play/period piece," but I think she went too far in the other direction. Aphra Behn pretty much invented the idea of a woman making her living as a writer, and while it's a fun concept to have her involved with both royalty and a famous performer, focusing on her sex life doesn't do her justice. Also, the supposed parallels to the 1960s didn't add much for me, and having tried fruitlessly to Google the play, I think the title Or, is not a great idea. Overall, the period dialogue convinces, the plot amuses, and the characters engage, and the doors slam frequently and farcically, just as they should. I just wanted more.

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