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This Groovin’ Production of “Or,” Will Light Your Fire (Review) February 20, 2018

Posted by ronannarbor in Theatre.
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Reviewed by Wendy Wright

I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s taken me this long to make it to the Kickshaw Theatre and boy have I been missing out. Founder Lynn Lammers and her associates are creating the next big thing in the Southeastern Michigan theater scene and you really need to check it out. Their latest production of Liz Duffy Adams’s titillating Or, directed by Suzi Regan is a joy, as are her trio of actors.

Loosely based on real historical figures, Aphra Behn is England’s first female professional playwright…and a spy. She’s just quit the espionage business to write her first play, and she’s on deadline when her former lover blazes in with enemies on his heels. To complicate things, the city’s hottest actress, Nell Gwynne, is getting awfully friendly, and, for that matter, so is the king—as in Charles II. Set in Restoration England, this playful farce is a rush of mad-cap antics, gender bending, and rollicking intrigue. Against a background of a long drawn out war and a counter-culture of free love, cross dressing, and pastoral lyricism, the 1660s look a lot like the 1960s in this neo-Restoration comedy.

I’m surprised the play is not produced more as It has the look and feel of a Restoration comedy without the huge cast and elaborate sets and costumes. The themes are timeless, and it’s wild and sexy and just plain fun. Additionally, it provides a tour de force for three actors, two of whom take on multiple roles.

The success of the piece depends primarily on the actress playing Aphra and in Vanessa Swanson, Regan has hit the jackpot. It’s virtually impossible to take your eyes off her. The strength and earthiness she brings to the role is intoxicating. Mary Dillworth and Daniel A. Helmer play multiple roles with varying degrees of success. Helmer transforms from King Charles to William Scot and back again seamlessly in mere seconds like he is born to it. Dillworth’s rendition of the notorious Nell Gwynne seems a little too naïve, but her Lady Davenant brings down the house (thanks in no small part to costumer Em Rossi).

Director Regan keeps the pacing swift (clocking in at 80 minutes with no intermission) but takes too tame an approach for my taste. Rossi’s costumes are beautiful and intertwine the 1660’s with touches of the 1960’s in an understated way (love the puka shell necklace!), Lammer’s props are clever (the purple lens glasses are groovy!), Quintessa Gallinat’s century jumping preshow songs fun, and the intricate requirements of the set and lights handled deftly by Aaron Delnay and Heather Brown respectively.

My advice is to run down to the Kickshaw to see a wonderful version of a show that you probably don’t know but should!

Highly Recommended.

Or, is recommended for ages 14+ and continues at 8pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and at 4pm on Sundays, February 15 – March 4 at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, 704 Airport Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48108. Tickets at http://www.kickshawtheatre.org.

A2CT’s Studio Theatre has Big Fun with OR, (Review) June 21, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Theatre.
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What follows is my first Guest Review by Thalia Schramm for Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Studio Series production of ‘Or,” …since I am the Producer of this production, it wouldn’t be right for me to review the show — so I thank Thalia for taking the time to see and review the show!….And without further delay it follows:

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Currently performing in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s studio space is the period piece “OR,”. The story is based on the life of Aphra Behn: spy, poet, and first professional female playwright. Taking place for the most part during one night of Aphra’s life in the 1660s, Liz Duffy Adams’ hilarious script shows immense amounts of humor, intelligence, realism, and profanity. With a backdrop of long wars, a counter culture of free love, sex, cross-dressing, and artistic development, “OR,” draws inspiration from the Restoration Period, and the 1960s through the present.

The story starts as Aphra Behn (Erin Dion) is sprung from Debtor’s prison by King Charles II (Morgan Brown), and she is given a chance to write a show for a London theatre company by Lady Davenant (Sara Schreiber-Rose), if she can only finish the production by morning with a few well-timed distractions by new actor/lover Nell Gwynne (Rosemary Sullivan), demanding lover King Charles II, and on-the-run ex-lover and double agent William Scott (Morgan Brown again) who may know of a plot to murder the king. Phew! Director Wendy Wright has assembled a fantastic cast to carry out this zany script.

Dion leads the cast magnificently, executing every vocal nuance and joke in the best ways. She rides the line between classical and modern speech perfectly, and you are instantly drawn to her energy onstage. While Sullivan makes you laugh constantly, from the beginning of the show forcefully selling oranges to the audience, to brazen and sexy Nell Gwynne, to gross-but-loyal Maria (Aphra’s Maid); and as Lady Devenant, Schreiber-Rose is hilarious, knowing just the right amount of ridiculousness.

As an offering by A2CT’s Studio series, the set, hair and make-up do just the right things. Alexandra Berneis’ uses costume pieces from the Classical eras with selected modern touches that work wonderfully for the piece. Literally the only thing I would change is Kind Charles II’s long black curly wig (that often covered his face — and Dion’s.

All in all, as the first A2CT studio show I have seen, I loved it. I laughed the whole time, and the cast was great. Check out this show this weekend! Remaining shows are Saturday, June 21st at 8pm, and Sunday, June 22nd at 2pm. Tickets are available at the door, 322 West Ann Street.