Theater review by Adam Feldman
The approach to politics practiced in (and preached by) Oslo is so different from our current discourse that it might seems quaint if it weren’t so persuasive. J.T. Rogers’s account of 1993 meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, which led to the breakthrough Oslo Accords, is a testament to the potential value of diplomacy, cooperation, mutual recognition of opponents’ humanity and—contra the now-trending WikiLeaks ethos—backroom secrecy. Arriving at those things was not easy even then: As Rogers lays out, in a narrative flush with historical detail, it took the ingenious private openness and public duplicity of a well-connected Norwegian couple, Terje Rød-Larsen (Jefferson Mays) and Mona Juul (Jennifer Ehle), to get the warring parties to the negotiating table—and, no less crucially, the dining table.
Directed by Bartlett Sher with the same distinguished ensemble cast as in its Off Broadway run last year, Oslo is a study in grays, both literally (in Michael Yeargan’s set and Catherine Zuber’s costumes) and in its studious rejection of black-and-white visions of the Middle East. Nearly three hours long, the play demands attentiveness and works hard to achieve it. (The actors, at times, deliver their lines at alarm-clock volume.) In its bittersweet final swell of hopefulness and humanity, it rewards one of our most endangered virtues, in theater as well as in politics: patience.
Vivian Beaumont Theater (Broadway). By J.T. Rogers. Directed by Bartlett Sher. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 50mins. One intermission. Through June 18.