OSLO by J. T. Rogers is about The Oslo Accords and how they brought momentary peace in the Middle East. That’s a very heady subject to choose and with Bartlett Sher‘s adept direction, you have a lovely evening of intrigue and behind the scene machinations that is never boring or preachy. Unfortunately, it also never soars beyond a PBS docudrama with very few thrills and almost no depth. My jaw hit the ground when confronted with the overused “how can we be enemies, our daughters have the same first name” bit. Really? Even the usually wonderful Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays come off blandly as the Norwegian couple who mastermind the Peace Talks. Michael Aronov gives a vigorous, eccentric performance as the one character with any real verve. Mr. Aronov deserved the Tony, OSLO did not.
PRESENT LAUGHTER by Noël Coward is a funny, droll, witty romantic comedy. Kevin Kline, always mesmerizing onstage, is cast as an aging Broadway star who recites his favorite love lines to entice young women and reacts to minor affronts like he’s playing to an imaginary balcony. This role is tailor-made for him.
Regrettably, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel’s wacky, gag-riddled direction misses its mark. Coward requires a sly, even hand; it is a comedy of manners, not burlesque. Von Stuelpnagel has his cast performing slapstick, mugging and generally overacting, as if he didn’t trust the material to entertain on its own.
If you want the lead character to be recognized as an aging ham, you can’t surround him with prosciutto.
INDECENT by Paula Vogel is a near miss for me. It has a couple of grand theatrical moments that take your breath away and some marvelous acting, plus I always love hearing Yiddish incorporated into dialogue; it reminds me of my Grandma.
Unfortunately, the conceit of having an Acting Company perform the play and the Actors play multiple characters in the play, often misfires. The personalities are too subtly defined and since many Actors are playing multiple characters who are performing the same role in the play-within-the-play, it causes everything to take on a dull drone. I’m not saying that I didn’t know who was talking or why, but that the characters were not precisely drawn enough for me to care. It’s a real shame, there is much of worth here, including a thrilling finale.