Aprha Behn is one of the more fascinating characters in English literature: a 17th century British writer who became the first woman to make a living with her talented pen. As a playwright and poet, and with a side job as a spy for King Charles II, she crashed through many gender and sexual barricades of the time.
The real story of Behn is rather submerged in the play by Liz Duffy Adams awkwardly titled Or,—yes, the title includes the comma—which turns the story of this remarkable woman into a sex farce with a dollop of espionage intrigue. While this may not be entirely satisfying for some scholars, the show is loaded with rich wordplay, some biographical elements, and modern language suffused with a Restoration comedy flavor. All in all, it’s a wonderful 90-minute door-slamming romp, performed with pleasing precision by the Dobama cast.
If there is a serious side to the play, it is the idea of two strong women, Behn and the actress Nell Gywnne (with whom Behn becomes amorously entiwined), who are carving out careers in the 1660s. Indeed, there are repeated comparisons made to connect that era to the decade three centuries later when women’s rights and a more modern sexual revolution were taking place. Happily these parallels, often manufactured or glib, don’t detract from the energy of the writing or from this delightful performance under the direction of Shannon Sindelar.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.