Oslo: #Not90MinutesNoIntermission

 

I’d mentioned a few weeks back that Kristen and I had bought a bunch of tickets on TDF after the Tony Nominations were announced and one of those shows was Oslo at Lincoln Center. It had a great cast and it was historical. How could it be bad?

Oh yeah, it was three hours long.

Should we get large coffees at Joe beforehand so we’re properly caffeinated?” I’d texted Kristen that morning. She concurred and with large cold brews in hand, we walked over to the Vivian Beaumont. We took our seats in the orchestra, off right of center. The seats were, once again, fantastic. TDF is really killing it lately in that sense. Although it must be mentioned that there’s literally not a bad seat in that theatre. I’ve sat in all of the sections, top and bottom, and they’re all good. A few minutes after 2pm, the incomparable Jefferson Mays walked onto the stage and the lights shifted.

In case you’re living under a rock, Oslo is about the Olso Accords that took place in Oslo (duh) from 1992-1993. Given that I was 6 years old when this happened, and we all know how anything we weren’t responsible for directly is skimmed over in the US school system, I was unaware of everything that went down.

Mays played Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norweigian sociologist and politician, who had a method for conflict resolution that he greatly wanted to attempt to use to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. His wife, Mona (the fabulous Jennifer Ehle) worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and together they worked “in developing the back-channel communications that (reportedly) saved the Oslo negotiations from collapsing.” Because despite what our current president might think, it’s pretty hard to negotiate peace in the Middle East and the US and major world powers in 1992 were attempting the same thing and fucking it up royally. His theory was, I believe, that it was more affective for people only associated with two side’s governments to be at the table, rather than the government officials themselves.

It’s incredibly sad to see how hard people worked on this and then how quickly it all fell apart. The last sequence is the cast onstage together reciting the events that lead to the atrophying of the peace agreements and the eruption into the chaos that we know it is today.

Besides Mays and Ehle, Michael Aronov, Anthony Azizi, Dariush Kashani, and Daniel Oreskes all gave powerful performances as the people who involved in the actual negotiations.

But let’s get back to the length for one second. This was by far the quickest 3 hours in a theatre that I’ve ever experienced. I sat through (the slightly longer) August Osage County and that felt lightyears longer than Oslo. Oslo was so engaging that I was never, ever, even for one second bored. I never flipped through my Playbill or checked my watch. THAT’S how you know you’re experiencing a solid piece of theatre.

Oslo just won the Outer Critics Circle Award and I bet that’s not the last award it will win this season, at least I hope not. This is a simple, yet thoroughly engaging production on a timely AF topic with a top notch cast. Get your tickets.

This is not your mother’s Avenue Q or even your Book of Mormon. Hand to God is the darkest and most perverse thing on Broadway right now. Set in a small nondescript town in the American south, Hand to God is about a group of kids in a puppet club that meets in the basement of a church once a week and how one hand named puppet takes over Jason’s life and wreaks havoc on the group.

There are moments of laugh out loud hilarity. There’s a line in the first scene that had Kristen and I rolling on the floor for a good five minutes. We also nearly lost our shit during a scene change in the second act (really, Kristen almost died). But in between these moments of absolute hilarity, it drags a bit. It’s really dark and depressing. There are puppets, but not like in Avenue Q and there’s no cute score to go along with it. When the lights went up for intermission we still had no idea what we were watching or why (OK, the “why” is because we bought tickets, but you know what I mean).

The puppet wreaks havoc on the group and after some (er, a lot of) bloodshed, the puppet is thrown off the floor and Jason rushes with his mother to the hospital, claiming that if his possessed puppet hand comes back to life, she will help him. Black out. Then the stage is black and only the puppet head and hands appear. It’s incredibly creepy, and startling, and awesome.

The puppet gives a few minute monologue that MAY have brought the show together for me. It’s about how people started off sacrificing sheep to absolve themselves of their sins but when they realized they were wasting sheep, they decided to use a person and thus, the concept of Jesus was born. The puppet was definitely sneering at the audience and attempting to make us question our own thoughts about life and religion. Was he saying that we used different puppets in life to absolve ourselves of our sins? Or are we the puppets being controlled by some force that may not exist?

Steven Boyer was FANTASTIC as Jason and he better get a lot of nominations this season. Geneva Carr, Michael Oberholtzer, Sarah Stiles, and Marc Kudisch were all great too. Special shout out to Sarah Stiles who is always hilarious in anything she does.

Because this is a play that is dark and at times gruesome with a hard-to-grasp ultimate point, I don’t see this lasting very long, but who knows. I can imagine a lot of confused southern tourists going to see it thinking it’s going to be a happy show about god. That said: see it while you can. It’s worth seeing.