The set by Matthew Smucker starts out piratey, with looming, sail-like curtains held up by ropes and a jagged, shiplike wooden frame in center stage. It turns out to be a jail, not a boat, but the piratical influence is apt, as it sets a playful mood perfectly tuned to a show full of double entendres, quick changes, masked suitors, whores, and the occasional brandished pistol.
Our heroine, Aphra (Kirsten Potter), is a former spy and aspiring playwright—she's based on Aphra Behn, a playwright from the mid-17th century who spied for the English, landed in debtor's prison, and went on to write more than a dozen plays. This Aphra is well-spoken, well-dressed (the costumes, by Catherine Hunt, are also expertly matched to the mood of the show—high quality, pretty to look at, slightly silly), and one of many women in history whose main battle in life seemed to be fighting against her gender to get what she wants. "To be a woman is to be a whore," she maintains throughout, though she's trying not to get trapped by husbands, trysts, or anything similar. "Wasn't there a husband? A Dutchman?" another character asks. "Plague," Aphra says simply, without looking up from her desk. "Sorry!" her friend says. "Don't be," she answers dryly.
Lovers pursue her anyway, both male and female. Montana von Fliss plays Nell, an actress who grew up in a whorehouse and who is a perfect friend-turned-lover and foil for Aphra's sly but serious manner. Nell giggles and dives and writhes and generally entices, which makes it all the more fun when von Fliss shows up later as Aphra's lumpy, cranky old handmaid (with a gigantic prosthetic ass waggled to full effect in every scene).
Basil Harris plays another lover of Aphra's, and the reveal of his true identity is a surprise I won't destroy. Harris also steals the show playing a theater patroness whose nonstop chatter and excellent physical comedy had the audience cheering and clapping him offstage.
Potter's Aphra is beguilingly smart, and the script is charming, with lots of rhyming that rarely falls flat. (The king of England and Aphra, in conversation about her post-espionage advice on Suriname: "You told me not to lose it to the Dutch." "Have we?" "Pretty much.") The play is punchy, smart, funny, and sexy. Everyone's accents work, the crossdressing works, the quick changes work, it piles on top of itself in a big whorl of glee, and the theatergoers (even at a weekend matinee) left pink-cheeked and laughing.