By Molly Cox
The Scena Theatre’s production of The Norwegians is Fargo meets Northern Exposure meets a conversation with your violent, alcoholic aunt. It was written by female playwright C. Denby Swanson, and this production is directed by Robert McNamara.
Olive (Nora Achrati), a heartbroken gal from Texas, hires two Norwegian hit men to put the axe to her ex. Tor (Ron Litman) and Gus (Brian Hemmingsen) are not your typical gangsters- instead of “wise guys” they are “nice guys.” They are empathetic and kind to Olive, reassuring her that her murderous desires are justified. The point out, “Everybody wants someone dead at least once in their life; this is just your time!” The plot alternates between Olive’s conversation with them, and an earlier conversation she has with her new friend Betty (Nanna Ingvarsson) at a bar. Betty is another scorned Southern woman looking for revenge, and her ulterior motive for befriending Olive becomes clear in a twist ending.
Throughout the play, there are surreal, nonsensical asides. Though there were sometimes weak points in the show, the exception is a scene when Olive and Betty dress as princesses, dance around the stage, and attack the unfortunate Tor. This scene is so completely, wonderfully ridiculous, you can’t help but get a good belly laugh. Tor was, in my opinion, the most likeable character; he’s a wonderfully sweet and lovable psychopath.
The Norwegians is a dark comedy, but sadly much of the humor fell flat. There are too many inside jokes about Norwegians, and there are monologues about Norwegians or being Norwegian that go on seemingly forever. Having never visited Minnesota and also being unfamiliar with Norwegian culture, I found my attention wandering as joke after joke failed to resonate. Also, The two actresses’ forced Texas and Kentucky accents were hard to listen to after a while, especially when they were drunkenly slurring or yelling (often).
However, there is great chemistry between the members of the small cast, especially Betty and Gus (who are married in real life). Tor and Gus also have excellent rhythm in their banter. It is totally believable that they are partners in crime, though their charming bickering is more reminiscent of an old, married couple than that of cold-blooded killers.
The staging and lighting are superb. The production crew expertly makes the audience feel like they are immersed in the scene, whether it takes place outside on a winter night, or inside a cozy cabin. There are scenes that are downright beautiful- where snow falls gently on the cast, or they are enveloped by the warm glow of a single light bulb.
Beyond the weird dream sequences and drunken monologues to no-where, The Norwegians contains some profound meditations on relationships. The fear of being alone and the desire to find someone to cuddle up to on frigid nights are feelings a winter-weary D.C. audience can relate. At one point Tor tells Olive (paraphrasing here) “There’s someone for everyone, then there’s someone else. Don’t worry, you’ll find your someone else.” In real life, finding “the one” has become all but a myth. When your heart has been broken, the hope of finding your next great love affair, your “someone else” is what keeps you going.
I recommend you go see The Norwegians with your “someone else,” but please don’t murder him or her afterwards.
The Norwegians runs through April 19th at the Anacostia Playhouse.