Perhaps the best way to describe a show with a one-word title is also with a single word — Genius.
“Or,” is simply that — Genius.
The show examined modern issues of sexuality and gender inequality but was set back in 1670. This made a powerful statement. How could we still be dealing with these things after what seems like 350 years of fighting them? Don’t we know yet that women are capable of pursuing and dominating the same careers as men and that love is love, no matter who it’s with?
But “Or” didn’t just lay these issues out on the table, the writers and actors provided a theme of hope for change.
Nell Gwynne, played by Mary Dilworth, paralleled the qualities of today’s Women’s March and LGBTQ rally leaders and I ate up every single word she uttered. Her words, actions and spirit were so believable in fact, I think she could be the one person able to penetrate our political climate today and make a real change. Nell Gwynne is an inspired and relatable character. She’s feisty and not afraid to speak her mind whether it’s vulgar words, sexual innuendos or political opinion. Dilworth’s talent is incredible. I left hoping Nell Gwynne could somehow become my best friend.
Then we have leading lady, Aphra Behn, pursuing her love for writing despite the fact that in 1670 London, it was a man’s trade. She does what she needs to do in order to be able to draft her play and then hopes when she submits her best work, she will inspire a shift in public view. Behn, played by Vanessa Sawson, leads by example to make a change. Sawson’s ability to transition tones and attitudes so smoothly throughout her monologues, between quiet and serious, loud and angry, sultry and sexy and inspired and excited, was absolutely alluring.
Daniel A. Helmer, who played King Charles II and William Scott, created remarkable chemistry with Sawson. Helmer took his charm and hilarity and combined them perfectly to entertain.
The actors did a fabulous job rendering their lines, but big props are also in order for director Suzi Regan. Every component of the show under her leadership was brilliant. Playwright, Liz Duffy Adams, who originally scripted the show Off Broadway for the Women’s Project Theater, wrote a funny, witty and smart script.
The costumes, particularly Nell Gwynne’s, added depth to the show. Costume designer, Em Rossi, gave the garments just enough pizzazz to enhance the show, but not distract.
There’s never a dull moment in “Or.” Behn finds herself needing to save a king’s life and transition from spy to playwright, all while she’s falling in love, over the course of a single night. And I must venture to say, I’ve never heard better rhymes in all my time. The audience, along with myself, was captivated and transported into the character’s world from start to finish.
Nell Gwynne called it a “Golden Age,” where people can love who they want, male or female, and women can chase their dreams, rather than stay confined to societal norms. The 1670 London setting of “Or” is symbolic for our present. Today, we can enter a “Golden Age” too. We have the right people speaking up for just causes and finally, change is in the making.
“Or” is in its final weekend, playing Thursday, March 1, Friday, March 2, and Saturday, March 3, at 8 p.m., and then Sunday, March 4, at 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online at www.kickshawtheatre.org, by phone at 888-718-4253 or at the door.
I suggest “Adults Only” for this show due to the language and content.
Kickshaw Theatre is a professional pop-up theater, and “Or” is showing at the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth located at 704 Airport Blvd. in Ann Arbor.