Oslo – An Historic Play
Having spent some time in Norway, I have to say I am partial to that country and to Norwegians. I’ve traveled from coast to coast, and farther north than the Arctic Circle, and was enchanted by the beautiful landscapes and lovely people. Therefore, a play titled Oslo, is bound to get my attention.
But this piece by J.T. Rogers is not about the mountains or fjords of Norway, rather it is about the stunning meetings between representatives of two polarized factions that took place in 1992, as they attempted to carve out peace and harmony in the Middle East. Oslo is about the Oslo Peace Accords, which astoundingly culminated in a handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat in the Rose Garden of the White House, on September 13, 1993.
The back story of these talks, and how they were arranged by Norwegian diplomats who were trying desperately to change the course of history, is fascinating. In a short note in the Playbill, playwright Rogers explains that he learned about how the talks were initiated by the very diplomat engaged in making them happen, when he met the gentleman in New York one night in Dec. 2012. Rogers found the tale to be incredible and wanted to bring it to life on stage.
Oslo, with expert direction by Bartlett Sher, is a complicated story that is dramatized very well. Despite the lengthiness of the piece, it is gripping.
Utilizing actual news footage as projections, the back drop of history blended with the fictionalized version of the story behind the Oslo Peace Accords, keeps the pace brisk.
The casting of each of the characters is spot on and the Norwegian accents are quite good. A stark and appropriate set by Michael Yeargan underscores the Scandinavian esthetic, with set pieces wheeled on and off.
Each actor is wonderful in his or her role, but Jennifer Ehle as Mona Juul, one of the diplomats, along with husband Terje Rod-Larsen (the fabulous Jefferson Mays) responsible for bringing the two sides together, is a standout. Michael Aronov as Uri Savir, the Israeli Director General of the Foreign Ministry, also delivers an outstanding performance. But really the entire cast is superb.
The ending of Oslo is well executed, with each character providing the update of what has occurred since the historic handshake took place.
It would have been wonderful if there were a happy ending in our history. Sadly, that is not the case. But the attempt that was made by all sides, at least shows that there was a beginning.