Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of The Magic Play and Fun Home

Holly Twyford
Photo by Grace Toulotte
Can a single 90-minute-long play be both a rowdy farce and a highly literate neo-Restoration comedy, peopled with modernized versions of figures from English history—or must it be "or" instead of "and"? The play may be titled Or, but Aaron Posner's production for Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, contains all the above elements and more.

Posner has brought together three shining talents—Holly Twyford, Erin Weaver (four Helen Hayes Awards each), and Gregory Linington—along with an army of dressers to allow for split-second costume changes in Liz Duffy Adams' play about love, lust, espionage and, most especially, words.

Twyford, swaggering and swooning by turns, is Aphra Behn (1640-1689), the first Englishwoman to make her living as a playwright and a spy for King Charles II (Linington). Through one tumultuous night, Aphra must deal with visits from both the king and William Scott (also Linington), a Dutch spy and her former lover; a romp with actress Nell Gwynne (Weaver); and an audience with haughty Lady Davenant (Weaver again), patron of a theatrical company that might stage her play. The performers hide in closets and bedrooms and instantly reappear in other guises.

Adams is going for more than laughs, though. Or,—the comma actually refers to the two-part titles of such classic plays as Twelfth Night, or What You Will—also celebrates the connection between political and artistic liberation. The Puritans led by Oliver Cromwell shut down theaters and enforced strict morality during their rule; Charles II, an enlightened monarch, reopened theaters and finally allowed women to act. Gender roles shift, creativity flourishes, and the show, as it must, goes on.

On a less obvious level, the playwright allows the spirit of the 1960s to seep through the trappings of the 1660s. Occasionally the music and dancing is decidedly more modern than 17th century, and Nell puffs on "amazing weed" (tobacco, of course) from Aphra's hookah.

In addition to the talents of the actors and director, the production looks beautiful: Paige Hathaway's lived-in-looking set, furnished with rich woodwork, crowded bookshelves, and piles of cushions on the floor; Kendra Rai's costumes, ranging from the regal to the absurdly overembellished; and Thom Weaver's atmospheric lighting.

Round House Theatre
April 12th - May 7th, 2017
By Liz Duffy Adams
Aphra Behn: Holly Twyford
Jailor, Charles II of England, William Scott: Gregory Linington
Nell Gwynne, Maria, Lady Davenant: Erin Weaver
Directed by Aaron Posner
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD
Ticket Information: 240-564-1100 or