Or, at Caffeine Theatre | Theater review

Liz Duffy Adams makes Restoration playwright Aphra Behn the star of her own Restoration-style farce.
Photograph: Jason Beck Megan Kohl and Edward Karch in Or, at Caffeine Theatre
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In this 2009 work, Liz Duffy Adams makes Restoration playwright Aphra Behn the star of her own Restoration-style farce. Adams takes as her starting point some of the fascinating circumstances of Behn’s real life. A lowborn woman, married to a husband who conveniently died soon after, Behn was afforded social freedoms as a young widow that a single woman in 17th-century England could never expect. She served as a spy against the Dutch for Charles II before ending up in a debtors’ prison when the king was slow with reimbursement. Behn went on to become one of the first English women to support herself as a writer, after an unknown benefactor paid her debts.

Identifying that benefactor is one of the keys to Adams’s comic take; the other is the insertion of actor Nell Gwyn, known to be a mistress of Charles II. Adams suggests it was a free-loving Behn who made the introductions.

Stephen H. Carmody’s open set design, with its ropes and pulleys and views of backstage, meshes well with the playfulness of Adams’s script, which suggests an affinity between the Restoration of the 1660s and the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Megan Kohl radiates warmth and charm as Aphra, but on opening night Kay Kron and Edward Karch hadn’t quite mastered the quick-change magic required for them to play multiple characters. Catherine Weidner’s direction feels cramped into endless circles around a chaise; Carmody’s stage doesn’t give Behn and company enough room to rove.

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