Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Broadway Center Stage: The Who's Tommy
Director Ryan Rilette is working with 15 actors, keeping the dialogue and physical action in constant motion over a run time of close to three hours. The main propulsive force is diplomacy, which in this case often means duplicity and never showing one's cards until one knows what the other is doing. As one character says, "What is a lie but a dream that may come true?"
Oslo, which received the 2017 Tony Award for best play, recalls a time when Israeli citizens were forbidden by law from meeting with representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Then a Norwegian coupleTerje Rød-Larsen (Cody Nickell), a sociologist, and Mona Juul (Erin Weaver), a foreign service officerhad the audacious idea of bringing the two sides together secretly to find common ground. PLO representatives Ahmed Qurie (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) and Hassan Asfour (Ahmad Kamal) first meet with disheveled Israeli academics Yair Hirschfeld (Sasha Olinick) and Ron Pundak (Gregory Wooddell), then diplomat Uri Savir (Juri Henley-Cohn) arrives to boost the intensity of the conversations.
Rilette's actors understand how to craft detailed, sometimes contradictory characterizations as they talk and come into conflict with each other. Ebrahimzadeh, achingly tender as Qurie recalls his childhood in Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel, and Kamal's Asfour, hilariously grim and doctrinaire, at first don't know what to make of the underdressed Israelis telling bad jokes, but over time they make connections on a personal level. Nickell and Weaver convey the many emotional and intellectual levels beneath their largely placid exteriors.
Other standouts are Todd Scofield as Mona's boss, who knows what's going on and isn't comfortable with it; Alexander Strain as the point person in Israel; Kimberly Gilbert in two very different roles; and Conrad Feininger as august Israeli official Shimon Peres.
Misha Kachman's scenic design is clean-lined and simple, mostly gatherings of tables and chairs, while Jared Mezzocchi's projections provide views of snowy Oslo and distant cityscapes, strongly supported by Jesse Belsky's lighting design. Matthew M. Nielson's sound design focuses on the evocative melodies of the Middle East.
Round House Theatre