Review: RAIN MAN At Christiania Theater

Precision in acting at its finest!

By: Jan. 31, 2024
Review: RAIN MAN At Christiania Theater
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Review: RAIN MAN At Christiania Theater Seldom does a theatrical production completely immerse its audience in a cocoon of emotions, distancing them from the complexities of their own lives for a captivating two and a half hours, as Rain Man achieved at Christiania Teater during last night’s performance (I was unable to attend opening night).
The story of two brothers who discover each other after their father dies has been turned from an Oscar-winning film into a stage play by screenwriter by Dan Gordon.

The growing trend in turning movies into plays has sparred some debate recently. So why adapt a famous movie into a play? That is a question with no easy answer. It can be said about multiple mediums. Why adapt a play into a movie, or movie/play into a musical, or a stage musical based on a movie (even those based originally on movies)? I guess one answer is if the source material has something to new to add to the table, then it is always enticing to see where the road leads. It could even lead to places a movie cannot. Whatever your taste, it is hard to argue that "live immersive theatre" has something that the movies cannot replicate. It is a collaborative experience between the actors and the audience and is experienced  by both parties. And never is one performance identical, as opposed to movies which are static.

And lastly, let's face it – the general public, and especially millennials and generation Z don't watch older movies anymore, even classics such as Rain Man.

The plot unfolds around the self-absorbed businessman Charlie Babbitt, who discovers that his autistic brother, Raymond, has inherited their father's wealth. Determined to claim his share, Charlie embarks on a mission, "liberating" Raymond from the institution he has resided in for years. Together, they embark on a cross-country journey, revealing the true value of brotherhood. Despite the overarching themes of despair, cruelty, hope, perseverance, and love, the narrative cleverly injected humor, derived from Raymond's tics and his struggle to comprehend social interactions.

Portraying the iconic roles originally played by Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in the 1988 film, are Bjarte Hjelmeland and Nicolai Cleve Broch. Mr. Hjelmeland delivered a convincing and flawless interpretation of one of the most challenging roles an actor can undertake. There are so many small details in his performance that gives it such believability. From small details such as how he scratches his arm when he is nervous to the way he speaks. I have people with autism close to me, I can see that he has treated the portrayal with respect and nuance. Nicolai Cleve Broch  also gave a mesmerizing and incredibly endearing performance as the initially arrogant but inherently damaged Charlie. His character undergoes a profound transformation from a shady car salesman at the outset to a devoted family man by the story's conclusion. It was evident that the audience eagerly absorbed every poignant moment. Notably, the scene where Charlie teaches Raymond to dance and the final poignant scene, where Charlie struggles to convey any change in Raymond's emotionless demeanor to the doctors, left the audience in silent admiration.
 

Review: RAIN MAN At Christiania Theater



The supporting cast are all great, especially Anette Amelia Larsen as Charlie's girlfriend Susan. She has such warmth and empathy combined with strength.  Per Frisch as Raymond's caretaker Dr. Bruener, also excelled in providing a plausible, emotionally charged, and gripping narrative. Both Jannike Kruse and Ulla Marie Broch play multiple parts and both give memorable moments during the evening.

Hanne Tømta's direction is very solid, and she has succeeded in bringing out the important character-driven elements in the play and in Dan Gordon's adaptation of the source material. The dialogue driven piece never feels stagnent, and everything is rooted in reality. The set design by Gjermund Andresen is simple, beautiful and functional. All transitions flow naturally and lead us from place to place easily with the help of minimalist rear projections. All in appropriate 80s colors.

The exceptional cast deservedly received one of the quickest standing ovations I have ever witnessed, affirming the profound impact of Rain Man's theatrical rendition.

Photo Credit: Fredrik Arff




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