“Nothing much happens here, it’s true,” says a young woman in Jon Fosse’s A Summer Day. “But that’s just what we wanted.” The same could be said of Fosse’s evanescent drama, which adapter-director Sarah Cameron Sunde unfolds like a burial shroud. A somber Karen Allen begins the play looking out of a window and down at the sea; soon she retreats to the sidelines, where she wistfully watches a younger version of herself (Samantha Soule) look out of the window and down at the sea. In the course of the play, in fact, all six characters spend time at that window, looking down at that sea, and their talk is no less spare and repetitive.
The young woman and her husband, Asle (McCaleb Burnett)—the only character to whom Fosse assigns a name—have moved to an old house in the countryside, where they are isolated from the modern world and increasingly from each other. As their boredom builds to anxiety, Asle spends more and more time by himself in a small boat (without a life jacket), drifting toward an inevitable tragic event. When the clouds of portent finally burst, the play is briefly drenched in feeling—but even that feeling is numbness.
A Norwegian whose plays have been widely produced in Europe, Fosse works in a deliberately simple mode that has elicited comparisons to Beckett and Pinter; without their respective gifts for humor and suspense, however, his iterative style often seems merely plain. The cast does an admirable job of holding the audience’s attention, even when drama goes out the window, and there are lovely moments of calm in Sunde’s staging for Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. But to me, at least, A Summer Day feels too static to succeed even on its own terms as post-shock theater.—Adam Feldman
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