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THEATER REVIEW Oslo
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2019-09-22

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Playwright: J.T. Rogers

At: TimeLine Theatre and Broadway in Chicago at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St. Tickets: 312-775-2000 or www.timelinetheatre.com; $30-$75

With the regional premiere of Oslo at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, TimeLine Theatre shows off its artistic might by brilliantly teaming up with Broadway in Chicago.

Now TimeLine could have produced J.T. Rogers' 2017 Tony Award-winning play about by the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accords on its own. But TimeLine's usual intimate venues wouldn't have given the grandeur necessary for such a gripping drama about an amazing (if unfulfilled) shift in history.

Rogers found the perfect way into Oslo by focusing on the married Norwegian couple who risked their careers to facilitate a back-channel way for peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Not only does Rogers fill Oslo with political intrigue and tense situations, he also milks as much humor possible from the issues of rank and hospitality.

With such a great script in hand, director Nick Bowling masterfully brings it to life with a sterling 13-member cast and great production team. Though Oslo runs three hours with intermission, the time just flies by thanks to everyone working at the top of their game.

As the big-thinking Terje Rod-Larsen, Scott Parkinson brings all the necessary determination and audacity necessary for his role. He's equally matched by the ever-practical and tactical Mona Juul, played by Bri Sudia as a one-step-ahead thinker who continually saves the day.

One of Rod-Larsen's big ideas was to try to create friendships between those involved, so it's great to see that occur in Anish Jethmalani and Jed Feder who respectively play the Palestinian Ahmed Qurie and the Israeli Uri Savir.

It's also great to see other actors like Juliet Hart and Victor Holstein show off their changeling qualities by rotating through multiple roles. For example, Bernard Balbot and Ron E. Rains can be loveably frumpy Israeli economics professors in one moment, and then high-powered politicians the next.

Christine Pascual's costumes and Katie Cordts' wig and hair designs are of indispensable help to Bowling's cast, and so is set designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec who creates a blank-canvas drawing room that morphs into multiple locations.

Thanks to projection designer's Mike Tutaj's exhaustively researched video footage and Jesse Klug precisely focused lighting design, Oslo can travel anywhere from the crammed West Bank to snowy Norwegian woods.

Although subsequent history between Israelis and Palestinians prevents Oslo from truly being a "feel-good" story, it's admirable for Rogers to have focused on a time when there was genuine hope for peace. Oslo is a reminder that we need to learn not only from history's mistakes, but its surprising triumphs as well.


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