THEATRE RESPONSE: “Or-rhotic-a” or, Or, by Liz Duffy Adams, Thinking Cap Theatre

 

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or-/ɔː; unstressed ə/

conjunction (coordinating)

1. used to join alternatives: apples or pears, apples or pears or cheese, apples, pears, or cheese

2. used to join rephrasings of the same thing: to serve in the army, or rather to fight in the army, twelve, or a dozen

3. used to join two alternatives when the first is preceded by either or whether : whether it rains or not we’ll be there, either yes or no

rhotic -ˈrōtik/

adjective(phonetics)

1.        of, relating to, or denoting a dialect or variety of English, e.g., Midwestern American English, in which r is pronounced before a consonant (as in hard ) and at the ends of words (as in far.)

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OR, Non Rhotic, which is the case with the dialects in this delight currently running at Thinking Cap Theatre, deftly directed by Nicole Stodard. The play is a hoot, put on your breeches and show off some calve, it is all good. Despite the title, the play eschews binary thinking and is offered to man, woman, straight, gay and everybody in between.

Stodard directs the nimble and slick cast of Niki Fridh, Betsy Durkin and Alex Alvarez in this reimagining of the plight of Aphra Behn, not the first but one of the most successful female playwright of her time. There were over 40 female playwrights  between 1500 and 1850. Who knew?  Some credit her prose as the beginning of what we now call a novel. Rumours abound that writings written by “Anonymous”, were women who weren’t allowed to put their name to writings. As a monarchist she wrote when the monarchy was “restored” from the morally strict rule of Cromwell to  Charles the II, much more popular and “friendly” than his stodgy father Charles I. He eventually opened the theaters, thus giving us Restoration Theatre (Thanks!) Shakespeare is long gone after allegedly smoking mad bowls in his garden in Stratford upon Avon during  his golden years. It makes sense.

 

What we see is Aphra’s (Niki Fridh, who is much prettier)  attempt to start writing professionally,shaking off her sketchy past as a spy and undocumented birthright, surviving a brief stint in debtor’s prison, wooing the female actress Nellie Quinn (Betsy Durkin) and squashing an possible assignation plot with her ex lover and double agent  William Scot(Alex Alvarez.)

The play is bawdy (naughty), fun, fast paced and the 80 minutes with no intermission flies by quickly. The binary tracks of humour are clearly presented by Adam’s clever interweaving of historical nods to early theatre history and modern veiled references to our wars in the middle east, coffee houses (tea hadn’t arrived yet)  and good old modern cussing. Audience members schooled in theatre history will get more of the humor than those who are just watching an interesting and complex premise. It will be mislabeled as a farce, but it is not. No one is overreacting to a silly premise, their circumstance are life and death. There are even jabs at the arguably brilliant/pretentious Pulitzer Prize Winner Tony Kushner’s play titles, which of course are drawn from  double titles of writers that were in mode dating back to writers before Shakespeare. As Aphra tells us, “Pick a title!”

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(Top to Bottom, Alverez, Fridh and Durkin)

Shout out to Nicole Stodard (who has impeccable literary taste) and Dialect Coach, Jane Duncan. One often thinks of english dialects and dusty old plays with actors talking from the neck up with their feet pinned to the floor. That is not the case in this show. All three actors embody full bodied voices and physicality that for 99.9% of the show completely connect to the their skilled handling of dialects and at times dense text, and the cherry on top is that they make it look easy

Hats off to the juxtaposition of the rustic, autumnal colorings of Alyiece Morettoa and Stoddard’s design work, subtly imbued with very vibrant pinks and blues. 

This show deserves to sell out. They have one weekend yet. Go now!

We’d be remiss to not mention the use of a small gun to replace the diacrictical marking in the title (Linguistic  humour is hot)

Nicki Fridh (Aphra Behn) Betsy Graver (Nellie Gwynne or Jailer or Maria) Alex Alvarez ( Charles II or William Scot or Lady Davenant)

Direction, Sound and Costume design by Nicole Stoddard. Stage Management:Carey Hart, Scenic Design: Alyiece Moretto, Lighting Design: Eric Nelson, Costume Sticher(sic); Gabriella Kun,Dialcet Coach; Jane Duncan,Properties: Casey Dressler, Set Crew: Mariah Busk Run Crew: Kat O’Hearn & Emma Magner

“Or” is running through March 5 at the Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets cost $35 ($25 for students 25 and younger with valid ID). To order, call 813-220-1546 or go to VanguardArts.org 

$10 student rush 10 minutes prior to curtain.

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