Aphra Behn was a pretty exciting lady. Not only was she, in the late 1600s, the first English woman to make a living writing plays; she also reportedly led a dashing undercover existence spying for the English crown.
If only every production of her work were that thrilling. The Queens Company, which produces all-female versions of classics, presents Behn’s Sir Patient Fancy, a raucous comedy of sex and mistaken identities. It’s amusing at first, but eventually its relentless cheer wears a little thin.
Sir Patient (Natalie Lebert) is a bumbling hypochondriac at the center of a series of confusingly similar love triangles. Lucretia (Antoinette Robinson) loves Leander (Amy Driesler), but is courted by Sir Credulous Easy (Virginia Baeta). Wittmore (Elisabeth Preston) woos Isabella (Sarah Joyce), who loves Lodwick (Sarah Hankins). But that courtship’s just a decoy, diverting attention from Wittmore’s affair with Sir Patient’s wife. Got that?
Restoration comedy is usually perplexing, but this one also feels monotone, missing the bitter notes that often lend the genre depth. The production, too, is uniformly bubbly, packed with blustery acting, poppy love songs, and fake goatees. I wish the company had looked for more nuance in Behn’s text — or maybe that they’d picked a more interesting play.