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.
A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2 is a riveting 90 minute look into the flaws of modern emotional connections, all while dressed in Victorian garb. The way that Ibsen showed us the foibles of turn-of-the-century sexual politics, Lucas Hnath gives us insight into the thrust and parry of current relationships. The costumes align the show with the original work, but the racy dialogue lets you know that they are talking about our lives now.
Laurie Metcalf (brilliant) comes blustering in like a contemporary Bella Abzug, until she is challenged and you see the exterior crack. Jayne Houdyshell (delicious) smiles like a crocodile as the resilient and resentful nurse left in charge of the kids that Nora abandoned. Condola Rashad (fascinating) is the self-assured mirror of Nora post door slamming. Chris Cooper (wonderful), is constantly shifting moods in his effort to rein in his emotions. Every single performance is delightfully theatrical and psychologically layered. And did I mention; it’s a REALLY FUNNY COMEDY! Where A DOll’S HOUSE (part 1) is a parable of female awakening, PART 2 shows us why it is so difficult for men and women to get along in today’s self-centered Society.
CBS Sunday Morning
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.