Aphra Behn (J Benway) and Nell Gwyn (Shannon Agostinelli) in Or,

by Molly Gilmore for OLY ARTS

Olympia Little Theatre’s latest production, entitled Or, (including the comma), involves sexual freedom, lime-green fabric printed with butterflies and an invitation to tune in and turn on. “It’s a bedroom farce with a more serious message of love and tolerance,” said director Toni Holm.

Yes, it is set in the ’60s—the 1660s, when King Charles II was restored to the throne of England. He reopened the theaters, which had been closed by the Puritans. “A new era of hopefulness was dawning,” Holm said. “Arts were flourishing, and people could speak and love as they pleased. I was a child of the Woodstock generation, and I see a lot of resonance.”

The action centers on Aphra Behn, the first woman to become a recognized playwright. Though Behn (J Benway) and the play’s other major characters, the aforementioned Charles (John Tuttle) and actress Nell Gwyn (Shannon Agostinelli), are historical figures, Liz Duffy Adams’s 2010 play is as much fantasy as fact. Adams has imagined Behn as the lover of both the king and Gwyn, who was in fact the king’s mistress. That’s part of the reason this isn’t a show for children or the easily offended, Holm said.

The costumes, designed by Diana Purvine, also interweave fantasy and history. Purvine started with 17th-century patterns and then added plenty of imagination for a look that’s a little bit Austin Powers, a little bit Marie Antoinette. “It’s going to be a very visual show and a lot of fun,” Holm said. “It’s definitely a funny production.” Expect all that plus some much-needed peace, love and understanding.

The fortuitous timing of this production is accidental. Holm proposed the show several seasons ago but then found out Scot Whitney of Harlequin Productions had the same idea. “I’ve been stalking this play for many years,” Holm said. “I wanted to do it in an era I thought of as a new renaissance.”

What: Or,

Where: Olympia Little Theatre,
1925 Miller Ave. NE, Olympia

When: 7:25 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, Feb. 16-18 and 23-25;
1:55 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19 and 26

How much: $11-$15

Learn more: 360-786-9484 | OLT