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Review Roundup: OSLO, Starring Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle- All the Reviews!


Lincoln Center Theater's smash hit production of J.T. Rogers' new play Oslo, directed by Bartlett Sher, re-opens tonight at the Vivian Beaumont Theater (150 West 65 Street), after a sold-out run last summer off-Broadway at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater.

Lincoln Center Theater's production of Oslo will premiere in London later this year when it is produced by the National Theatre, opening September 5 at the National's Lyttleton Theatre before transferring to the West End where it will begin performances on October 10 at the Harold Pinter Theatre.

The original off-Broadway cast of Oslo returns for this Vivian Beaumont Theater production: Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Jennifer Ehle, Daniel Jenkins, Dariush Kashani, Jeb Kreager, Jefferson Mays, Christopher McHale, Daniel Oreskes, Angela Pierce, Henny Russell, Joseph Siravo, and T. Ryder Smith. The production has sets by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Catherine Zuber, lighting by Donald Holder, sound by Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, and projections by 59 Productions.

A darkly comic epic, Oslo tells the true but until now untold story of how one young couple, Norwegian diplomat Mona Juul (Jennifer Ehle) and her husband social scientist Terje Rød-Larsen (Jefferson Mays), planned and orchestrated top-secret, high-level meetings between the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which culminated in the signing of the historic 1993 Oslo Accords. Featuring dozens of characters and set in locations across the globe, Oslo is both a political thriller and the personal story of a small band of women and men struggling together-and fighting each other-as they seek to change the world.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Some works of art cry out for large canvases. Though it is sparing in its use of scenery or anything approaching spectacle, J. T. Rogers's "Oslo," an against-the-odds story of international peacemaking, is undeniably a big play, as expansive and ambitious as any in recent Broadway history. So it is particularly gratifying to announce that it has been allowed to stretch to its full height in the thrilling production that opened on Thursday night, directed with a master's hand by Bartlett Sher.

Matt Windman, amNY: International diplomacy isn't easy - especially when it involves getting two warring populations to make hard concessions - and neither is "Oslo," J.T. Rogers' three-hour ensemble drama depicting the back-and-forth backroom negotiations leading up to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The play is long and talky and jam-packed with names, dates and historical exposition, but also well-crafted and nuanced, with interesting characters and even humor every now and then. The subject matter is also increasingly vital at this time of heightened instability throughout the Middle East. Under the direction of Bartlett Sher, it is presented with as much clarity and personality as possible.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: The approach to politics practiced in (and preached by) Oslo is so different from our current discourse that it might seems (sic) quaint if it weren't so persuasive. J.T. Rogers's account of 1993 meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, which led to the breakthrough Oslo Accords, is a testament to the potential value of diplomacy, cooperation, mutual recognition of opponents' humanity and-contra the now-trending WikiLeaks ethos-backroom secrecy. Arriving at those things was not easy even then: As Rogers lays out, in a narrative flush with historical detail, it took the ingenious private openness and public duplicity of a well-connected Norwegian couple, Terje Rød-Larsen (Jefferson Mays) and Mona Juul (Jennifer Ehle), to get the warring parties to the negotiating table-and, no less crucially, the dining table.

Marilyn Stasio, Variety: What would it take to get you to Lincoln Center Theater to see a three-hour political drama about the 1993 peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization known as the Oslo Accords? I doubt this review is going to do it, which is really a shame, because "Oslo," a new drama by J.T. Rogers, is unequivocally fascinating. Would that some playwright would write as gripping a play about some contemporary political issue.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: Now comes the extraordinary Oslo, Rogers' riveting dramatization of another complex political tarantella that unfolded in secret before, in September 1993, stunning the world. That was when Bill Clinton presided at a Rose Garden ceremony in which Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestine Liberation Organization's chairman Yasser Arafat shook hands after signing a historic peace accord. Oslo opened last summer in Lincoln Center Theater's Mitzi E. Newhouse; it's moved upstairs to the Tony-eligible Vivian Beaumont, where it opened tonight. It's even better the second time around.

Jesse Green, Vulture: Diplomacy is a lovely word, suggesting the idea that with tact and perseverance humans can accommodate one another. Yeah, sure. If that seems unlikely, so does the idea that diplomacy could be the subject of a madly engrossing play, and for a similar reason: How do you make tact and accommodation rewarding? More specifically, how do you theatricalize draft treaties and position papers? Yet J. T. Rogers's Oslo, which opened on Broadway tonight in a Lincoln Center Theater production directed by Bartlett Sher, turns the negotiations that led to the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord of 1993 into gripping human drama. To the extent that it does so by making diplomacy not just interesting but moving, it's a wonder of savvy stagecraft and wily performance. It's also, quite possibly, a lie.

Elysa Gardner, Entertainment Weekly: As we now know, that period was just a warm-up for the noise and chaos that followed, and Oslo has arrived at LCT's Broadway venue with its sense of urgency intact, if not heightened. Director Bartlett Sher, whose rigorous insights into history and human relationships have buoyed new works and revivals, has actors rearrange the pieces of Michael Yeargan's spare set as one scene flows into another, so that the production seems in constant, almost frantic, motion. Their characters pace and circle each other and raise their voices suddenly, lashing out or buckling under the strain of having to maintain their composure. Bits of dialogue teeter into speechifying here and there, but you'll barely notice; the balance of passion, discipline, and suspense is organically, thrillingly theatrical.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: In such ways does Oslo occasionally make us laugh. Indeed, there are some really excellent jokes in it, which will go unspoiled here. The absurdity of levity in the situation is as present as high-stakes political brinkmanship: Ehle is such a calm operator that the moment she freaks out at some randomly-appeared tourists is a moment of dramatic wonder. Within the conversations there are wry surprises too: In the middle of the backwards and forwards over giving up territory, and ownership of cities, one character asks another who-the Israelis and the Palestinians-will be responsible for tax and garbage collection. That's what the government really needs to get right.

Elizabeth Bradley, Broadway News: Leaving Lincoln Center on a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon after a performance of "Oslo," I was surprisingly engulfed by an uneasy disquiet. My reaction, I should hasten to make clear, is not one that will likely be shared by many who go to see Bartlett Sher's crystalline production of a fine new American play by J.T. Rogers - though I expect other minds will be similarly concentrated by the issues the play raises. Is the fault in myself, I mused, or in the stars? (Here I decidedly am not referring to the ones on the stage but rather those through which fifty-nine U.S. missiles cruised toward a single target in Syria last week.)

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: Peacemaking isn't tranquil business. "Oslo" reminds theatergoers of that as it imagines the secret and highly charged talks that led to a break in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nearly 25 years ago. Smart, touching and spiked with spy-novel tension and wry humor, the drama at Lincoln Center is the latest work by J.T. Rogers. Two of his earlier plays dramatized struggles in Rwanda and Afghanistan. Now he trains a keen eye on the Middle East - and Scandinavia, where the 1993 Oslo Accord came together.

Patrick Maley, It is a smart and at all times potentially explosive play that has at its core people rather than politics. Rogers muses about how a small group of humans having secret conversations (and copious drinks) across tables and in sitting rooms can create results that resound on a global scale. It is an insightful play that is neither as meticulous nor efficient as it could be (it does little to earn the right to its three-hour running time), but nonetheless does impressive work to underscore the personal at the heart of the political.

Roma Torre, NY1: Besides turning an historic event into high-brow entertainment, "Oslo" is impressively even-handed. Both sides emerge proudly arrogant, yet desperate for peace. And while that peace didn't last, this excellent play offers hope that history can once again repeat itself.

Dave Quinn, NBC New York: In the end, "Oslo" may not give many answers - but it instead stresses the importance of communication across the aisle, even if the results don't lead to what one might desire. Living in today's divisive political climate, it hard not to feel inspired by that.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: Some of us may be easy marks for any hint of humanity in a story of the indelible tragedy of the Middle East. "Oslo," in its account of intractable foes finding common ground, is irresistible and, ultimately, deeply moving. Jokes are related at the negotiating table, at the expense of the string-pulling leaders behind the scenes, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; memories are shared about the suffering of warring peoples, the devotion to loved ones at home. The small acts of soul-bearing indeed bind the characters to one another - and an audience to them. Around Rogers's captivating table, gradualism is a triumph for everyone.

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