BY TAFFY JAFFE
Just when you thought an enjoyable evening in the theater had to cost $100. for a balcony seat, along comes The Norwegians. For $39.99 you will entertained by a smart, quirky plot, non sit-com laughs, and good to superb acting, in an intimate setting. The Drilling Company presented this off-off broadway production last March where it was extended. It reopened in October and will continue the run until October 28.
The play was written by C. Denby Swanson, though she has written several other plays, this is her first comedy. And funny it is, taking on two women’s revenge plots against their jilting lovers. It’s great to see a sharp woman playwright, and I wish she’d use her first name, so she won’t be confused with a male writer. The setting is freezing Minnesota. Betty played by Karla Hendrick is a stand out. I’m convinced she could read the phone book and have us rolling in the aisles. To watch her search silently, frantically for a phone number in her huge pocketbook, while two other characters talk is a ten minute inventive hysterical feat. She’s “white trash” from Kentucky, and she explains to Olive (Veronica Cruz), a newcomer from Texas, who she meets at a bar; “you have to find a lover here fast before you’re iced in”. They’ve both been iced in and then iced out by their Minnesotan lovers. Betty has hired hit men to kill her guy and advises Olive to do the same. “Everyone wants someone dead once in their life, and this is your time”.
Olive meets with the two nice guy gangsters to set up the hit. Tor (Hamilton Clancy) runs the business with Gus (Dan Teachout). Both men have wonderful deep voices. They satirically characterize their business with the latest trends; marketing, revenue, market share. Tor never stops reminding that he is the pure Norwegian. He likens himself to the Minnesota Twins, who started last, but won the world series. “It’s biblical. Norweigans think it’s not nice to want to win.” Of course, a baseball bat is the weapon of destruction. These actors keep things moving. We believe them. They make us laugh. I will not tell you who sleeps with who, or who gets killed and who doesn’t, but I suggest you check it out.
I had trouble with Veronica Cruz’ portrayal of Olive. It’s hard to know what is the director’s responsibility and what is the actors. This character was over the top, cartoony, in an unreal way, as opposed to the other players. I have the same question of responsibility with the incredible Karla Hendrick. For the main she stays in her comic wise guy demeanor. But there are times when she widens her eyes for effect. This is not necessary and makes her seem unreal. The set is divided between the bar with the women, and the business place of the hit men. We also go back and forth with flashbacks. The director, Elowyn Castle kept all this moving beautifully. The scenic design by Jennifer Varbalow, was simple and effective, as was the lighting by Nicholas Simone, and the costumes by Mimi Maxmen. I don’t know who was responsible for the music, but it lifted the production. The choreography, by Megan Snipe, even though it was limited, was totally charming
I hope to see more comedies written by C. (carole?, cynthia?) Denby Swanson. She has a refreshing take on our country and the differences within. She is also able to goof on our modern times; its technology, acquisitiveness, and our relationships. Maybe in the future the theme of women being devastated by men will hopefully change. The producers of this show is The Drilling Company. Their mission is to produce American playwrights with a social conscience. They also run an annual Shakespeare in the Parking Lot program. I wish them all the best for following their passions and giving us so much pleasure.
Writer: C. Denby Swanson Director: Elowyn Castle
Cast: Veronica Cruz, Dan Teachout, Karla Hendrick, Hamilton Clancy
Running Time: 90 minutes Remaining Showtimes: thru October 28e
Location: The Drilling Company Theatre, 236 West 78 Street
Ticket price: $39.99 For info and tickets: 212 868 4444