Theater companies only invite close friends to dress rehearsals. So I must have felt pretty special when I invited myself to Thursday night's preview of The Lucky Chance, or the Alderman's Bargain and Kateri Cale, an Echo Theatre producing partner and cast member, told me I could attend. It was a lot like the sleepovers I had in high school with my first feminist friend Molly. We would go braless, drink coffee after 4 p.m., talk about religion and watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Garden State. Those were always my favorite nights, but I never really felt cool enough to be there.
Sometimes theater productions can make audience members feel like they're not cool enough, but I'm here to help. Here are some things you need to know about Aphra Behn's The Lucky Chance, or the Alderman's Bargain at Echo Theatre. And for another primer and timeline on Behn, here's my story from September, when Echo kicked off its season dedicated to the first professional woman playwright.
1) The definition of "cuckold"
This archaic word is used a few times in the first half of the play and numerous times in the second. As defined by the dictionary on my Mac "noun; the husband of an adulteress, often regard as an object of derision."
But in The Lucky Chance, nearly every character uses a variation of the word—as a verb, a noun and the derivative, "cuckoldry."
2) How to pronounce the playwright's name
Aphra Behn earned a spot in history as the first professional female playwright in the English language. She was the first woman to get paid for her work, not necessarily the first woman writing and having her work produced. But if you want to drop her name at cocktail party, be sure you say it right. You pronounce it AFF-rah BANE (like the Batman villain).
Wanna hear it? PronounceItRight.com can help you out.
3) Character names are important
The playwright is not the only one with a name worth pointing out, in many Restoration comedies a character's name reflect its personality and actions. Behn (now heard correctly in your head) paid a great deal of attention to her characters' names, using them for irony and description. In this play, note that the fop is named Bearjest and Bellmour the long lost love.
4) What a Restoration comedy is
In the late 17th century, Charles II allowed theater to resurface after an 18-year ban by the Puritans. Restoration Comedy is also known as Comedy of Manners and was known for sexual romps, stolen identity and witty jokes.
5) René Moreno adapted and directed Echo Theatre's production
London, 1969 is not the original setting of The Lucky Chance. And the songs he uses in the show are British pop songs from 1969-1970, with the exception of Frank Sinatra's "My Way," which Moreno says he counts as "universal." It would be terribly wrong and embarrassing if you told your friends, "they wrote these songs for the show."
6) Ryan Matthieu Smith always designs fabulous costumes
Smith's work can be seen all over Dallas, Fort Worth and New York City stages, as well as in national magazines. When he designs the show everybody looks good. His designs tend to feature bright colors, chic dresses for the women and dapper suits for the men.
7) It will take your ears time to adjust to the language
As far as I can tell there aren't statistics on the average time it takes a person to get into the flow of Shakespearean English. But Behn was writing less than a century after him so it will sound similar to the ear at first. But stick with it and before you realize it, you'll understand what's happening on stage. And now that you know the word "cuckold," you're golden.
◊ Look for a review of The Lucky Chance coming this week on TheaterJones.