BWW Review: OSLO at Round House Theatre - Complelling Theater
I was thrilled to read last year about this time that the Round House Theatre would be presenting OSLO. I was fortunate to see this play by J.T. Rogers that won the Tony Award for Best Play of the Year. It featured Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays. At Lincoln Center it played the huge stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater (it initially started at the smaller downstairs space, the Mitzi E. Newhouse).
It is so much more enjoyable in the smaller confines of the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre while the Round House Theatre in Bethesda is going through an impressive-looking renovation which will feature a new concierge-style box office, a grand staircase in the lobby, a full bar and cafe, improved acoustics, and better sightlines.(Visit www.RoundhouseFullCircle.org.)
Many of you may recall the the signing of the Oslo Accords in the White House Rose Garden in 1993 and the photo of the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization shaking hands with President Bill Clinton looking on. The play takes us on a ride how that agreement was achieved in of all places, Oslo, Norway, in secret. Not even the United States was involved.
Ryan Rilette, currently in his seventh season as Artistic Director of Round House Theatre, does a masterful job directing a superb cast of 15. The play is close to three hours long but it flies by.
Imagine that Israeli law prohibited government officials from meeting with the PLO, how is it possible to get negotiations going between these two parties.
This idea was hatched by a husband and wife team, Terje Rod-Larsen and Mona Juul. Terje (played by the terrific Cody Nickell) was the Director of the Fafo Institute for Applied Social Sciences while his wife Mona (the always wonderful Erin Weaver) was an official in the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. It happens the playwright met the couple by chance after a 2011 in the lobby of the Newhouse Theatre and the playwright got intrigued by their story about the Oslo Accords. He then spent several years writing OSLO.
It is truly amazing both sides agreed to meet in secret in the cold climate of OSLO without any input of the United States and in total secrecy. The two Finns were not set to use the ordinary practice of mediation. They instead would use their own concept of "gradualism" where the parties are put into a room by themselves without a mediator and then when they return to the open area are "forced" to talk about themselves in a real personal way to try to get to know each other. They sing, they dance, and they tell jokes. Hard to believe. Terje explains, "It is only through the sharing of the personal that we can see each other for who we truly are."
Terje and Mona go so far as to move the furniture into place so the parties would have to face each other during their "free" time.
Resident Round House Theatre Resident Artist Maboud Ebrahimzadeh does amazing work as the PLO Finance Minister. His associate in the negotiations is Ahmad Kamal as Hassan Asfour, a former Communist.
Facing these two are two professors of economics (Sasha Olinick and Gregory Woodell) who seem unable to achieve their goal.
Following Act I, the playwright introduces us to the newest addition to try to settle the matter. Israel sends in Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Uri Savir (played by the suave and electrifying Juri Henley-Cohn). Then things start getting serious. Then Israel sends in a lawyer, Joel Singer (the sharp-witted John Taylor Phillips) and things start to develop.
Bringing in a little levity to much success is the housekeeper Toril Gandal (the superb Kimberly Gilbert) whose waffles are a favorite of everyone.
The Design Team do a fabulous job: Misha Kachman (set), Ivania Stack (costumes), Jesse Belsky (lighting), Matthew M. Nielson (sound and composer) and the fabulous projections by Jared Mezzocchi add realism to the play.
OSLO runs until May 19, 2019. Do not miss it. For tickets, call 240-644-1100 or visit www.RoundHouseTheatre.org.
THIS AND THAT
"The Kelly and Ryan" Show has Broadway Week.
Monday, May 13 had Tony nominee Ali Stroker sing "I Can't Say No" from OKLAHOMA.
Tuesday, May 14 they go behind the scenes of KING KONG.
Wednesday, May 15 features BE MORE CHILL.
Thursday, May 16 go backstage with TOOTSIE.
Friday, May 17 will feature the cast of HADESTOWN.
"Live from Lincoln Center" has great Broadway stars on Friday nights.
Friday night, May 10 had THE COLOR PURPLE Tony winner Cynthia Erivo.
Friday night, May 17 has Annaleigh Ashford.
Friday night, May 24 has Sutton Foster.
Finally congratulations to Broadwayworld.com for celebrating its 16th anniversary.
I find it hard to believe that this is my 13th year writing for BWW and what a fabulous experience it has been.