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L-R: Hamilton Clancy, Dan Teachout, Veronica Cruz. Photo by Lee Wexler/Images for Innovation.
By C. Denby Swanson
Directed by Elowyn Castle
Produced by The Drilling Company Theatre for New Plays
236 West 78th St., NY NY
Reviewed by Feb. 7, 2014 by Larry Litt
If stereotypes are the quiddity of comedy then C. Denby Swanson is a master purveyor of this form. The theatrical pose she takes in The Norwegians is reminiscent of the very deadpan appropriations of the cliché of Scandinavianism found in the Coen Brothers’ “Fargo” or Steven van Zandt’s “Lillyhammer.”
Fortunately for us that’s where similarities ends. This play is full of language driven wit and dark sexual humor that those other high end shows abandoned to garner general audience acceptance. This is for mature, experienced audiences who have lived the ‘loved and lost’ debacle.
Swanson’s Norwegians are fully formed characters questioning their essence while defending it with the full force of their clandestine lives. Dan Teachout portrays neurotically murderous Gus. He’s conflicted about both his mongrel identity and his failure to live up to the rules of his chosen career as a professional hitman of the Norwegian style. He continually encourages our knowing laughter as he defeats himself, his aggressiveness and his romantic idiocy with every word and gesture. He invokes anger and pity for his violence.
L-R: Hamilton Clancy, Karla Hendrick, Veronica Cruz. Photo by Lee Wexler/Images for Innovation.
Tor, Gus’ partner in the crime business, played by deadpan genius Hamilton Clancy, is the most chauvinistic murderer in Minneapolis. His overweening national pride contradicts and projects his sordid enterprise. Tor’s every word and gesture exude Norwegissimo. His critical ragging on Gus’s mixed breeding as he simultaneously expresses his own tolerance is one of the funniest diatribes in criminal history. Can anyone be true to his ethnicity if he kills his own national brethren?
Veronica Cruz’ Olive, a coy, sad, angry, self-doubting, jilted woman new to the strange northern land of Norwegian Minneapolis, is the pivotal character who drives this comedy into its own believably bizarre reality. How can she regain her self-esteem, go on liking life and feel she has the strength to continue dating?
Therapy might help. However there’s only one way as far as Betty, played with cunning sociopathic loveliness by Karla Hendrick, is concerned. Olive meets Betty in a bar. They recognize each other’s boyfriend inspired misery. During their commiseration Betty suggests the unthinkable: assassination. From there onward this wild comedy goes where every rejected woman has thought at some time or another she could go. Yes, why not? No, there’s a moral issue, Yes, but I’ve been demoralized. No, it’s inhumane. On and on into that confused night of drinking, scheming and final resolution.
L-R: Hamilton Clancy, Veronica Cruz and Dan Teachout.
Things you will learn while adoring The Norwegians: How to contact the right hitman. The difference between hitmen based on their ethnicity. What pushes a sophisticated woman’s buttons to love, hate, then order a kill? Can an ex-boyfriend’s hit become a turn-on? Is there time to grieve before seeking new romance?
Director Elowyn Castle’s creation of Minneapolis’ dark side on the small stage is a wonder of wit brought to life. Yes, highly recommended. Just don’t order a hit on me if our taste differs.
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