Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Or," at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland

"Or," at Round House Theatre is a play with 7 characters about the first female playwright in the modern -- i.e. POST-Medieval world. Aphra Behn, aspiring playwright, retired spy, kept woman and unconventional lover of King Charles II; is delightfully played by Holly Twyford. She is reunited with Gregory Linington from their recent romp as the infamous George and Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" this past January-February at Ford's Theatre, and I also saw Gregory in "Little Foxes" at Arena Stage in October the past year. Gregory takes on 3 rolls, that of the Jailor of the Tower of London, of William Scott double agent and assumed enemy of the King, and King, Charles II, himself.  At one point, his being shoved into a wardrobe as William only to emerge seconds later from a door as Charles in completely unique attire (and then back again, and back-back again, and so on...) seemed more than improbable, but down right impossible. And no greater expression of this stage "magic" occurred then when the woman who was sitting next to me cried out (as much to her own surprise as that of the rest of the audience) "What the hell is going on down there!!

Erin Weaver, Holly Twyford, and Gregory Linington
While both Holly and Gregory were superb, the show stealer was the third actor, Erin Weaver (whom I saw in "Sense & Sensibility" at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre Library also last October) She takes on three characters with such chameleon like uniqueness as to be three unique persons without question. I overheard patrons discussing their incredulity she were they, that one actor could be all three, as we left the theatre. In the roll of Lady Davenant, she delivered such a long, convoluted, comically pitch perfect soliloquy on the Carolinian English theater, the role of women in society and her place in history that as funny as she was, you feared laughing for wont of missing the next line!  She finished and the audience burst into well-earned spontaneous applause.

The "Tower of London" played before the black curtain

A word to the set's designed by Paige Hathaway; because you already know that I'm a set slut.  The show begins in the Tower of London played with a simple table and stool before a black curtain, and then it moves into Aphra's artist's loft with set pieces sliding forward and props filling in a fully formed and perfectly appointed environment wherein the actors could work their magic.  In the opening monologue, Holly opines on the everything old is new again with a nod to the play's setting: "Is it the 1660's OR the 1960's?"  The set brought that line to life in many ways.  I loved the sets.  
Paige Hathaway's model for the sets.  
Finally, it was bound to happen. This is somewhere in the count of my mid-30's in terms of productions seen since September 1st, and I ran into an old friend and her husband at the show. There is something also magical about numbers in the mid-30's and statistical probabilities for common occurrences. Did you know, for example, that in any random group of 30-40 people, two will share a birthday? So I surprised my friend Shelley and her husband, Stan, by connecting with them in the lobby after the show. They were with another couple, so we didn't linger, but promised a phone call soon.

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