×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘Oslo,’ an Intellectual Thriller of Political Intrigue

With:
Jefferson Mays, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Daniel Jenkins, Dariush Kashani, Jeb Kreager, Christopher McHale, Daniel Oreskes, Angela Pierce, Henny Russell, Joseph Siravo, T. Ryder Smith.

Following a well-received Off Broadway run last year, the Lincoln Center Theater production of J.T. Rogers’ play “Oslo” opened April 13 at Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theater. The cast was the same, although the Broadway staging eliminated the second intermission of the Off Broadway original. The following is a lightly edited version of Marilyn Stasio’s review of that initial production, which ran in Variety on July 11, 2016.

What would it take to get you to Lincoln Center Theater to see a three-hour political drama about the 1993 peace treaty between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization known as the Oslo Accords? I doubt this review is going to do it, which is really a shame, because “Oslo,” a new drama by J.T. Rogers, is unequivocally fascinating.  Would that some playwright would write as gripping a play about some contemporary political issue. 

LCT subscribers should know how lucky they are, having the opportunity to see director Bartlett Sher’s striking production of this compelling drama. Heading the flawlessly cast ensemble are Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle as the Norwegian tacticians who pull off the incredible coup of getting high-level officials from Israel and the PLO in the same room and actually talking with one another.

Terje Rod-Larsen (Mays) is the inspired and somewhat excitable academic who dares to reach out to the Israelis to start the delicate and dangerous process of these secret negotiations. Terje is a fussy fellow who dresses so well (costumer Catherine Zuber scores again) and whose manners are so refined that Yitzak Rabin insists on referring to him as a Frenchman. Mona Juul (Ehle), his wife and the narrator of the dramatic events, is the even-tempered government diplomat who does whatever has to be done — from ordering the liquor to putting out emotional fires — to make it happen.

“It’s a very small country,” Mona says to the audience, graciously explaining the extremely tight personal and political relationships. “We take nepotism to an entirely new level.” No, that’s not a one-off quip.  Rogers’ (“Blood and Gifts”) clever dialogue really is that witty. You get the facts, but you get them delivered with intelligence and humor by this dream of a cast.  It’s the petty stuff — the pseudonyms, the clandestine phone calls, the drinking competitions, and all the other trappings of macho bravado — that makes these intimidating characters so human. And so funny.

Michael Yeargan’s scenic design and 59 Productions’ projections of constantly breaking battles makes it clear that neutral Norway aspires to be a very soothing nation in a world gone mad. The walls of the classically designed meeting rooms are painted in a restful shade of grayish blue, the furniture is comfortable, and everyone gets exactly the same kind of chair to throw across the room in a rage.

But once the principals meet each other face-to-face for the first time, we might as well be in the blood-splattered ring of a cockfight. In that spirit, Rogers smartly allows all parties to attack their counterparts with a vengeance, drawing on generations of historical grievances. It actually takes three hours, which fly by like time spent at the circus, to make these mortal enemies calm down enough to listen honestly to one another and acknowledge that they have more in common than they would ever admit.

The impeccable casting of these superbly drawn characters acknowledges their individual differences, as well as the common humanity that ultimately wins out.  Representing the Israelis, Shimon Peres (Daniel Oreskes) is the soul of statesmanship, while his right arm man, Yossi Beilin (Adam Dannheisser), growls like the Russian Communist bear he is. The third member of their group, the swaggering director general of the foreign ministry Uri Savir (Michael Aronov), is the star power, a dashing fellow who wears his floor-length leather coat like a movie star.

The Israelis are the comedians, deadly serious but always calculating how to disarm their enemies. When given the stage, they stun their PLO counterparts by telling  jokes — which leaves the Palestinians to draw on their own ancient tongue and play the poets.  No wonder it takes these guys so long to find a common language.

Broadway Review: 'Oslo,' an Intellectual Thriller of Political Intrigue

Lincoln Center Theater / Vivian Beaumont Theater; 1,047 seats; $147 top. Opened on Broadway April 13, 2017. Reviewed in its Off Broadway staging July 9, 2016. Running time: TWO HOURS, 55 MIN.

Production: A Lincoln Center Theater production of a play in two acts by J.T. Rogers.

Creative: Directed by Bartlett Sher. Sets, Michael Yeargan; costumes, Catherine Zuber; lighting, Donald Holder; sound, Peter John Still; projections, 59 Prods.; production manager, Paul Smithyman.

Cast: Jefferson Mays, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Adam Dannheisser, Daniel Jenkins, Dariush Kashani, Jeb Kreager, Christopher McHale, Daniel Oreskes, Angela Pierce, Henny Russell, Joseph Siravo, T. Ryder Smith.

More Legit

  • Sutton Foster

    Sutton Foster Starring Opposite Hugh Jackman in Broadway's 'The Music Man'

    “The Music Man” has found its Marian, the librarian. Sutton Foster, the two-time Tony Award winner, will star opposite Hugh Jackman in the upcoming revival of “The Music Man.” She will play Marian Paroo, a small-town librarian who is initially immune to Professor Harold Hill’s charms. It’s a role that was previously performed by the [...]

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content