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.
The cast of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, Photo by Joan Marcus.
By now you have read the glowing reviews of Bartlett Sher‘s re-envisioning of the classic FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. The approach is one of reinvention by revising the intentions of the text. No longer is “Matchmaker” a saccharin, young female fantasy, it is now used to cheer up a very frightened sister. The dance numbers are not performed with Broadway finesse, but rather with a roughness added to the dazzle that has you believing these are real people, really dancing to celebrate. The jokes are delivered as a humorous part of everyday speech, not with the crass “get a laugh” intention of previous incarnations of FIDDLER. Led by the hugely talented Danny Burstein (bravo to the producers for putting him in the star role) and one of our finest actresses Jessica Hecht, these feel like real people facing real problems. Everything resonates that much deeper.
And then you have the prologue and addendum. As a secular Jew, it just slayed me. We are living in a divided country, at a time where the majority of Jews are non-practicing, where our idea of celebrating Judaism is to have a seder with friends, but without the haggadah, where we are privileged to redefine our beliefs on our own terms, but this also takes us another step away from our heritage. Rarely do we look back at our ancestry and place ourselves in the long line of survivors adapting to a tenuous future. And that’s what this glorious production has gifted to us; it adds a new definition to the term “Tradition” as a remembrance, a memorial, a Yizkor.