I'm very fortunate in that my office publishes a magazine and I get to be involved, at times, in interviewing subjects. I sat in on a conversation between the playwright of Oslo and another wonderful American playwright a couple of weeks ago. It was very interesting to get some insights into Oslo the play - what went into the research, the construction of it, and other writer-y things - and see them put into practice while I was watching the show.
Oslo deals with the secret meetings that went on behind-the-scenes before the famous Oslo Accords. I didn't know any of the history of the meetings or the difficulties getting the two factions to come together, though of course I know the accords didn't really last. For me, and this is a personal thing, any story that deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict makes me sob. I just do. The thought of people walking around the streets, carrying automatic rifles, and killing other people, just for who they are, breaks my heart. It was compelling to me to hear characters from both sides of the conflict clearly and cogently lay out their reasons for conflict. And I'm always engaged by work that shows that no one person is any one thing.
|photo credit: T Charles Erickson|
But the whole cast was fantastic. Most of the actors, except for a handful of the leads, played multiple roles and were wonderfully adept at doing so. The physical production is also terrific - it has the spare quality you would associate with Nordic countries, but it was also very expansive in the large Vivian Beaumont Theater. The projections were a wonderful touch, adding more of a 'you are there' quality to the 'ripped from the headlines' proceedings.
You would think that a play dealing with such fraught politics would be heavy and serious all the time, but Oslo is also surprisingly funny throughout. There were delightful touches that made you laugh at yourself and helped you reset your brain for what would come next. And, as always, I'm so impressed by a play that takes a real subject, on which you know the outcome, and still creates suspense and tension. That takes real craft. I recently read that Oslo will become a film. I don't know - it seems perfect as a play to me. Big ideas shown in a big way in a big space with a big audience. I have a feeling that 'opening it up' will actually make it smaller. Which I guess could work for the piece, making the political personal. But I have to admit I do love a big play, much more than a big movie. Maybe that's just me. But I enjoyed the play Oslo a great deal and highly recommend it.