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Red and Green at Akvavit Theatre | Theater review

Astrid Saalbach’s provocative U.S. premiere sets up tantalizing questions of war and violence but gets lost in its characters’ personal relations.

Photograph: Anne Heaps
Red and Green at Akvavit Theatre

Dedicated to telling stories about contemporary Nordic people, four-year-old Akvavit Theatre here follows five Danish diplomats living in war-torn Nepal. Told in nonchronological order, Astrid Saalbach’s disjointed but provocative play explores the effects of war and violence on the human psyche (and libido). Red and Green, translated by Michael Evans for its U.S. premiere, is at its strongest when delving into the setting’s rich history and how the characters relate to Nepalese culture, but the script spends far too much time on superfluous personal drama.

Apathetic project manager Manne (Wm Bullion) prioritizes sexual conquest over philanthropy, and those around him complacently accept his advances. It’s possible Saalbach is commenting on how community violence breeds sexual promiscuity, but the extramarital affairs and homoerotic encounters are weakly set up and their consequences barely explored. When sex becomes just another thing people do, it loses its power as a dramatic tool.

As the naive Kristine, Kirstin Franklin is a strong emotional anchor for the production. The scene in which she watches a funeral pyre burn is a standout, as Kristine relishes the beauty of the ceremony while fellow aid worker Petra (Breahan Eve Pautsch) explains its cultural significance. When Kristine begins to understand the horrible reality of her situation and her idealism is stripped away, Franklin fearlessly captures the character’s turbulent emotional state.

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