Monday, March 20, 2023
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Oslo - Political intrigue behind closed doors

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for

You. Are. There. Oslo, Norway. April 1992 - September 1993. Behind closed doors. The characters are real. The situation fraught with intrigue and champagne and egos in this smart, theatrical, longish but never boorish lesson in history. Eavesdropping on the fragile, secret negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians hosted by the Norwegians.

Namely Terje Rod-Larsen (the excellent as usual Jefferson Mays) and his wife Mona Juul (an incredibly accomplished Jennifer Ehle) who is also the narrator. Together they have hatched a plot to bring the two opposing sides together in the hope that they can bring about a peace accord. He to fulfill his ego and she to hold everything together when all seems lost. To facilitate – not meddle.

Act I sets the stage and eventually brings the Israelis and the Palestinians to talk on either side of a table. One of the many pieces of furniture on casters enabling the director of this sometimes extremely amusing documentary-like theatrical excursion – Bartlett Sher – to have three hours whiz by.

It is a masterful accomplishment. As is the casting of this large ensemble. Each and every actor as near to perfection as is possible delivering the dialogue that is a barrage of verbal bullets that ricochet off the whiskey glasses and waffles as these uncomfortable diplomats attempt to loosen up and negotiate that seemingly elusive prize called “peace.”

Act II brings in the charismatic Uri Savir, (an outstanding Michael Aronov) Director-General of the Foreign Ministry of Israel who takes the words of playwright J.T. Rogers to new heights colliding head-on with Ahmed Qurie (Abu Ala) Finance Minister for the Palestine Liberation Organization - an equally impressive Anthony Azizi. And then we’re off!

Act III gets more complicated with details but is never unclear thanks to Mr. Sher and his expert actors culminating in the video projection in the White House Rose Garden on September 13, 1993 of the iconic image of President Bill Clinton presiding over a handshake between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Yasser Arafat – signifying Peace!

Unfortunately, as it turns out, more of the same continues. On and on it goes. We can only hope for a better outcome one day. Call me a cockeyed optimist.

At the Mitzi E. Newhouse – Lincoln Center Theater. Through August 28th

Photo: T. Charles Erickson