A Norwegian drama suffers from a lack of specificity.
Akvavit Theatre is a company that specializes in plays imported from Scandinavia. It’s a nice little niche (or fjord) in the Chicago storefront landscape and they do well within it. Unfortunately, their new play, Nothing of Me, left me thinking of another kind of Scandinavian import: Ikea. It’s all smooth lines, easy assembly and efficient but uninspired craftsmanship. It’s something middle-brow masquerading as something high-brow, and failing to succeed as either.
The play, by Norwegian playwright Arne Lygre, unfolds through a kind of co-narration—half soliloquy, half dialogue. A woman, known only as “Me” (Bergen Anderson), leaves her husband, referred to as “Ex” (Paul S. Holmquist) and shacks up with a guy called “He” (Dan Wilson). As the story unfolds, we learn that Me’s walking out on Ex was precipitated by the death of their young daughter. (By the way, if that description or those character names make you wince, then this is really not the play for you.)
We eventually meet their dead daughter, played by Kirstin Franklin. Franklin also plays both Me’s mother and He’s mother, as well as Me’s son. Maybe it’s because she has to delineate between 4 different parts, but Franklin delivers by far the most interesting and grounded performances in the show. Her characters seem like people. The others all feel like packs of tasteless, vacuum-sealed vegetables.
Directors Chad Eric Bergman and Breahan Eve Pautsch do the show few favors, directing everything with an overly earnest air of faux-profundity that stifles whatever sparks of life the script actually has. But if there are any sparks at all, they are few and far between. It lacks detail, it lacks specificity and it lacks actual humanity. It is the theatrical embodiment of an Ikea end table: specifically, the LACK.
Akvavit Theatre at Signature Ensemble Theatre. By Arne Lygre. Directed by Chad Eric Bergman and Breahan Eve Pautsch. With Bergen Anderson, Dan Wilson, Kirstin Franklin, Paul S. Holmquist. Running time: 1hr 15mins; no intermission.