If you wanted your ex-boyfriend dead, how would you feel about hiring a pair of nice, Norwegian hitmen? In Dark & Stormy Productions‘ The Norwegians, we meet Gus and Tor, the hitmen who Betty and Olive hire to do just that and what follows is a dark but comedic 90-minute show with resplendent performances by a talented cast.
C. Denby Swanson’s play starts with the feel of an interrogation, a small desk lamp shining in Olive’s face with Gus and Tor circling her and asking about who referred her to them. Played by James Rodriguez and Luverne Seifert, respectively, Gus and Tor have thick accents (think: typical Minnesotan accents). We learn that Tor is a more typical Norwegian who doesn’t understand or use concepts like irony and euphemisms. Gus is only half Norwegian and thus emotes slightly more than Tor. Both men are intimidating but likeable, with a desire to be nice and have good marketing.
Passionate and impressionable Olive (Jane Froiland) hails from Texas and meets the jaded yet confident Betty (Sara Marsh) at a bar who teaches her how Minnesota winters change people and what “Minnesota nice” really is. Their situation becomes one of frenemies, as they end up using each other to get what they want in the end: dead ex-boyfriends.
The perceptions presented by each character about Norwegians are commonly known and loved, but as someone who considers herself a Minnesotan, these became too cliché and heavy-handed. Yes, we make hotdish, and yes, we say “Oofda,” and yes, we look like potato sacks during our painstakingly long winters. (Coincidentally, today was even the day I broke out my poofy knee-length über-sexy winter coat.) We know this, and we love it, and we hate it, and it’s us. Swanson draws this out continually throughout the play so much that it unfortunately emits a disdainful feeling as opposed to an affectionate one.
Despite feeling slightly offended, I enjoyed the monologues that allow each cast member to shine as they deserve. They also have the perfect chemistry to pull off a show that’s funny but unscupulous, and director Joel Sass pulls what’s needed from the script in just the right way. The prejudice the characters have against different cultures, and even about people’s astrological signs, hints at the ridiculousness with which we judge others, as well as our own desires regarding self-identity. By the end, Olive thinks she finally understands what it means to be a Texan, and Tor starts to understand sarcasm, irony, and the like. Is Olive better off this way? Is Tor no longer a true Norwegian? It doesn’t really matter because we’re all individuals who don’t need to fit into one mold or another.
The play may not end well for all of the characters, but the build up toward it is a fun, entertaining ride. This is definitely not a holiday show, but if you love to hate winter and you’re looking for something juicier than A Christmas Carol, you won’t want to miss it. The Norwegians runs through December 30 but tickets are selling fast so be sure to get your tickets soon!
Also check out Cherry and Spoon’s review.
Dark & Stormy Productions
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