BWW Reviews: THE NORWEGIANS at Scena Theatre
Every once in a while you just need to laugh. I had had a long week, I had seen a lot of serious theatre recently, and I was burnt out. Fortunately, Scena Theatre's The Norwegians was just what the doctor ordered: dramatic hit-man thriller skewered into clever, oddball farce. Audience members giggled, and then guffawed, and then left with a spring in their step. If that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is.
The real star here is C. Denby Swanson's witty and quirky script. The show opens as Olive, a transplant to snowy Minnesota from a more red-blooded Texas, seeks out the help of two overly-nice Norwegian hitmen to take out her ex-boyfriend. We see how Olive came to the decision to hire the polite assassin, in hilarious flashbacks to a bar scene with Betty, a bitter Kentuckian who has also knocked off an ex. Culture clashes, brief appearances of Scandinavian gods, and Southern-girl bonding sessions make for absurd and funny banter amongst the four characters. The hilarity only escalates in Act II, as allegiances switch, the plot thickens, and a few ridiculous dream sequences are thrown into the mix.
The acting and comedic timing is strong here all around. Brian Hemmingsen as Gus and Ron Litman as Tor create uproariously contradictory characters: loving yet murderous, barbaric yet strictly polite and well-mannered. Litman is especially magnetic, and Tor's constant cultural appropriation (he claims that Norwegians invented manischewitz and the Kama Sutra) kept the audience in stitches.
As brilliant as the men are, they are outshined by Nora Achrati as Olive and Nanna Ingvarsson as Betty. Their chemistry is undeniable, and it is easy to be in their corner, cheering them on as they seek revenge on the men who have hurt them. It's also impossible to avoid laughing as their increasingly bizarre plans come to fruition. Ingvarsson is truly magnificent and brings down the house with a few perfectly bitter monologues on the fickleness of the Norwegians.
The technical elements do their job of creating setting without distracting from the brilliant cast. Daniel Schrader's set creates the hitmen's home base by using small details; a Norwegian flag, a taxidermy fish, a portrait of the country's king, and a table and chairs are all you need to know what kind of assassins we are healing with. A lone light post and a lovely snow affect create a cold Minnesota night for outdoor scenes. Denise Rose's sound cues are occasionally jarring, but the selection of broken-heart pop songs and Scandinavian metal for pre-show and intermission music is spot on.
As Washington, D.C. finally emerges from a mean winter, it's incredible fun to laugh over the antics that a long cold-season can bring about. If you're in need of a pick me up, head to the Anacostia Playhouse and grab a seat for The Norwegians. It's a decision you won't regret.
The Norwegians, produced by Scena Theatre, runs at the Anacostia Playhouse until April 19th. Tickets available here