Sunday, September 4, 2016

reviews - OR, - Southwest Shakespeare Company

Allison Sell and Emily Mohey
Photo: Patrick Walsh

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through September 17th.

History play or comical farce? Smartly written, thought-provoking prose or hilarious, knee-slapping jokes? In the case of Liz Duffy Adams' crafty comedy Or, the answer isn't one "or" the other, but a resounding "all of the above," as Adams effortlessly combines all of the aforementioned elements into a door-slamming, historically dramatic farce and an exceptional and provocative comedy. With a sublime cast and sure-footed direction, Southwest Shakespeare Company's Arizona premiere production is just as impressive as Adams' well written script.  Or, focuses on real-life English spy Aphra Behn, who was also a playwright...The play takes place mostly in a single day at the point in Behn's life when she decides to give up her job of spying for the government to focus on becoming England's first female professional playwright. A chance meeting with a theatrical producer sets Behn up for possible success but she's in a crunch as she needs to finish her play by morning ...She also encounters a trio of real life individuals—including King Charles, the free spirited actress Nell Gwynn, and the double agent spy William Scott—who keep interrupting her ability to finish her play in time.  Adams attempts to incorporate the sexual freedom of the 1960s with the newfound freedoms that Charles' return have allowed in the 1660s to create a time and gender bending farce. And while she may not completely succeed in demonstrating the parallels of the two time periods, Adams' use of both modern and classic verse, even a bit of iambic pentameter, plus some 20th century slang, do cross the centuries and result in a fun, thought-provoking play full of intrigue and intriguing characters...Southwest Shakespeare's cast is superb. Emily Mohney is simply radiant as Behn. Engaging, determined, ambitious, tough, focused, self-possessed, sexy, and sensual are all explicit traits that Mohney expertly, and effortlessly, establishes in Behn. Jesse James Kamps and Allison Sell portray every other character in the play with comical relish and senseless abandonment...They make each character unique and full of life... I can't imagine a better trio of actors incorporating these roles so assuredly. Patrick Walsh's direction is sharp and focused and he keeps the farcical elements playful and fun. ...Or, is an interesting mashup of historical drama and farce....Adams has written fascinating roles, based on real individuals, and instills the piece with a sense of hope, resulting in an engaging, fun, intelligent, and theatrically rich comedy. With an excellent cast and spotless direction, Southwest Shakespeare's production is sensational....  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"The creative mind of Liz Duffy Adams seems to know no bounds, her works a diverse and intriguing whirlpool of theatrical concepts. OR, (the comma's title is essential) is no exception; it is, indeed, another jewel in the crown of this master playwright and poet. She has unearthed the legacy ~ perhaps, more appropriately, the mythology ~ of another once (and from time to time, as historical cycles, tastes, and prejudices have allowed) renowned playwright and poet, Aphra Behn. OR, is witty, sexy, and sophisticated. It is at once provocative and light-hearted. It embraces, reveres, and elevates the power of the wORd. Adams fulfills the promise of the Prologue, to "enlarge and show a vast unsettled world within that open o and nosing thrust of r." In shORt, in fORm and ORder, OR, is a masterpiece. Behold, a superlative (and joyfully uninhibited and mirthful) cast ~ three of the region's finest actors ~has honored both with a tour de force performance in the opening offering of Southwest Shakespeare Company's 23rd Season. ......Mohney portrays (Aphra) with a marvelous blend of naivete and scruples..Throughout this madcap romp, Adams poses serious themes that resonate across three centuries and suggest parallels between the years of the Restoration and those of the 1960's...Adams does not hit the audience over the head with the parallels, but, if you're equipped with historical consciousness, you shouldn't have a problem picking up on them...Director Patrick Walsh, true to the company's mission of presenting plays of rich language, has achieved a hit in a well-paced and brilliantly acted production, aided and abetted by Mallory Prucha's set and Maci Hosler's stunning costumes. He and we have been graced by three extraordinary performances: (Allison) Sell (as Nell, the hooded jailer, and a cantankerous but wily servant), for whom no stage is ever large enough to contain her talent; (Jesse James) Kamps who is a fireball of comedic energy and shows it in three parts; and Mohney, whose range and depth of artistry is once again affirmed.  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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