Davor Golub

Review: OSLO at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater (Lincoln Centre), Broadway

Oslo When comparing London and New York theatre most critics agree that exciting new drama tends to be developed in London while New York is the town for innovation in musical theatre. It is therefore with huge excitement that I report that OSLO, at Lincoln Centre’s intimate Mitzi Newhouse space, is one of the finest new plays I have seen in years. Already a sold out smash in its limited run this summer, Lincoln Centre has announced that the show is transferring to its larger, Broadway venue, the Vivian Beaumont later in the year. No doubt this wonderfully theatrical and thought provoking production will be making its way to London soon.

OSLO came to pass when the playwright J.T Rogers happened to meet two Norwegian diplomats at his child’s school. Over drinks the diplomats revealed to Rogers that they had played a major role in organizing the back-channel talks that led to the Oslo Accords-an agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O) that was signed in 1993. Rogers’ play reveals the full story of how the Oslo accords came to be-a story that is documented, yet almost completely unknown. While the playwright freely admits that the words the characters say are all his and that the chronology of events has been compressed all the facts in the play are accurate.

The brilliance of the play, supported by the imaginative direction by Bartlett Sher, lies in its ability to humanize these complex negotiations and to ensure that the audience never feels the author is biased towards either of the political protagonists. Both sides are given the fairest portrayal that I have ever seen.

As to be expected from a Lincoln Centre production the acting is top notch. Both Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle, as the Norwegian diplomats provide complex, thoughtful and humorous performances that center the narrative. My only complaint would be that on occasion their attempts at a Norwegian accent left something to be desired. In fact, accents aside, the entire cast could not be bettered.

If truth be told both my companion and I arrived at the Newhouse fearing we were in for a worthy, but dry, three hours of political discourse. What a wonderful surprise to walk out of the theatre excited, challenged, informed and entertained. It seems that there is still hope for the great American play.

Oslo tickets