Gloomy trilogy of Norwegian plays hardly a fjord fiesta
By Hedy Weiss Theater Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org March 3, 2013 8:44PM
Corey Nobel (left) and Bergen Anderson in "Winter" by Akvavit Theatre. | Sooz Main photo
‘A SUMMER’S DAY’ AND ‘WINTER’
When: Rotating rep through March 24
Where: Akvavit Theatre at Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
Tickets: $15 each play ($22 for all three plays on Sundays)
Info: (800) 595-4849; www.tix.com
Run time: “A Summer’s Day” (90 minutes with no intermission); “Winter” (55 minutes no intermission)
Updated: March 4, 2013 8:06AM
Not a drop of alcohol is consumed during the course of “A Summer’s Day” or “Winter,” two of the three plays by Norwegian dramatist and poet Jon Fosse now being presented by Akvavit Theatre, Chicago’s Nordic-rooted company. But be advised: While Fosse’s bleak vision of love, loneliness and the inability of people to communicate, combined with his compulsive use of repetition, can be compelling (and even blackly comic at moments), it also can grow tedious to the point where it might well drive you to drink.
Running in rotating repertory (along with “Autumn Dream”), his trilogy, translated by Kyle Korynta, is grouped under the umbrella title “Gjengager” (loosely translated as “those who walk again”). If that calls to mind “the undead,” you would not be wholly off the mark, though these plays are no kitschy zombie tales. They do, however, give Ingmar Bergman’s films a run for their existential gloominess.
“A Summer’s Day,” directed by Wm. Bullion, is set in the attractive living room of an old house along a fjord on the Norwegian seacoast where a depressed woman in late middle age (played by Jan Sodaro) is looking back at the moment when, for all intents and purposes, her life came to a standstill.
As a young woman (played by Marika Mashburn), she agreed to leave city life behind and, at the urging of her husband, Asla (Joshua Harris), move to this remote area. But the move did nothing to alleviate his deeply depressive personality. In fact, it made things worse. And one day he just got into his little wooden rowboat and never came home, leaving her in a state of emotional paralysis forever.
As the bereft woman (her younger and older incarnations pass through the same space) gazes out her window to the sea, she recalls the fateful night when Asla left, and when a visiting friend (Mandy Walsh) and her pragmatic husband (Linsey Falls) tried to comfort her.
“Winter,” directed by Paul S. Holmquist, at least has a bit of sexiness going for it (unsatisfying as it might be for the characters). A quite normal, thirtysomething married man and father (Corey Noble) is on a business trip when he encounters a stunning but clearly off-kilter woman (Bergen Anderson, who has a runway model’s figure). Clearly she is in breakdown mode, and desperate for love and connection. And she comes on to him in a way few men could resist. He takes her back to his hotel room; she conks out on the bed; they do not have sex, and while he is out buying her some clothes and food his wife calls.
There is more. And while one of these people might be saved by this close encounter, the other might be ruined by it. Their liaison, very well played by the two actors, will never work. She knows this; he will learn.
Chad Eric Bergman’s set — a sweeping wooden wall suggesting a fjord— transforms the Storefront space with distinctive flair. Mix it with Chicago’s recent frosty gray skies and you might just think you’re in Norway.