Like temperatures above 50 degrees, the spring production from the Department of Drama and Dance has finally arrived. This show is one of several Tufts traditions, signaling the approaching end of the semester and the lighthearted fun of warmer months that are nearly upon us. A cure to midterm and finals gloom, “Or,” a play by Liz Duffy Adams that first premiered in 2009, promises to be a breath of fresh air with some foul language thrown in for good measure.
Adams’ comedy combines figures from the 17th century with the freewheeling vibes of the 1960s to tell the story of early female writer Aphra Behn (junior Kira Patterson), pioneering actress Nell Gwynne (junior Christina Moore) and Nell’s high-profile lover, King Charles II of England (junior Andy De Leon). Somewhat historically accurate, the farce focuses on the relationship between these two trailblazing women, giving the work a feminist spirit and emphasis.
While “Or” presents a challenging blend of elements, the creative team working on the Tufts production has undoubtedly risen to the challenge. As audience members take their seats tonight in Balch Arena Theater for the opening performance, they will be greeted by a visually arresting and inviting set. A lush piece of fabric draped over a chair and soft, patterned lighting designs subtly suggest a floral theme. However, the pi?ce de r?sistance is the large, eye-catching backdrop. The square tableau features enormous flowers, painted in rich burgundy and vibrant pink, creating the visceral sensation of entering a natural and hidden space, perhaps a private garden or a secret forest grove.
Director Sheriden Thomas, a senior lecturer in the Department of Drama and Dance, spoke about the significance of these blooms. Developed in collaboration with set designer Ted Simpson, also a senior lecturer in the department, the background was initially going to be a landscape. However, Thomas was later inspired by the work of Dutch artist Jacob Barrel and feels that the flower imagery helped to represent the “flower power” message of the 60s while also doubling as recognizable symbol of femininity an important concept in the play.
The female characters also emphasize the feminist message that first intrigued Thomas. Moore, who stars as Nell, noted that her character both inspires and challenges her. Moore has had the chance to do outside research on her role in class with Professor of Drama and Dance Barbara Grossman and notes that the character Nell (like the real woman) is foul-mouthed, unabashed and sexy.
“I love her and identify with her as a strong woman,” Moore said.
Moore also commented on the sexual material featured in “Or,” which she describes as “pretty racy [and] raunchy.”
“You just have to be unafraid to swap saliva,” she said. “I have to be near naked in the last scene … It’s a pretty fearless show.”
Risqu?, amusing and feminist, “Or,” promises to be an exciting show. The good news for busy Tufts students? At only 90 minutes without intermission, the play has a relatively short run time.
“Or,” will run from April 8 to April 12, with performances starting at 8 p.m. in Balch Arena Theater. General admission tickets are $12. Tickets purchased with a Tufts ID, by subscribers and seniors and on opening night cost $7. Additionally, tickets will be available for only $1 on April 10. All tickets can be bought at the Aidekman box office; for more information, call 617-627-3493.