Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Broadway Center Stage: The Who's Tommy

Conrad Feininger, Erin Weaver, Cody Nickell,
and Todd Scofield

Photo by Lilly King
In Washington, very often politics and drama overlap. That's seldom as true as it is with Oslo, J.T. Rogers' riveting recounting of the unknown back-channel negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian representatives that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which Round House Theatre is giving an exemplary production at the Lansburgh Theatre in Washington, as its own facility in Bethesda, Maryland, is undergoing renovation.

Director Ryan Rilette is working with 15 actors, keeping the dialogue and physical action in constant motion over a run time of close to three hours. The main propulsive force is diplomacy, which in this case often means duplicity and never showing one's cards until one knows what the other is doing. As one character says, "What is a lie but a dream that may come true?"

Oslo, which received the 2017 Tony Award for best play, recalls a time when Israeli citizens were forbidden by law from meeting with representatives of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Then a Norwegian couple—Terje Rød-Larsen (Cody Nickell), a sociologist, and Mona Juul (Erin Weaver), a foreign service officer—had the audacious idea of bringing the two sides together secretly to find common ground. PLO representatives Ahmed Qurie (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) and Hassan Asfour (Ahmad Kamal) first meet with disheveled Israeli academics Yair Hirschfeld (Sasha Olinick) and Ron Pundak (Gregory Wooddell), then diplomat Uri Savir (Juri Henley-Cohn) arrives to boost the intensity of the conversations.

Rilette's actors understand how to craft detailed, sometimes contradictory characterizations as they talk and come into conflict with each other. Ebrahimzadeh, achingly tender as Qurie recalls his childhood in Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel, and Kamal's Asfour, hilariously grim and doctrinaire, at first don't know what to make of the underdressed Israelis telling bad jokes, but over time they make connections on a personal level. Nickell and Weaver convey the many emotional and intellectual levels beneath their largely placid exteriors.

Other standouts are Todd Scofield as Mona's boss, who knows what's going on and isn't comfortable with it; Alexander Strain as the point person in Israel; Kimberly Gilbert in two very different roles; and Conrad Feininger as august Israeli official Shimon Peres.

Misha Kachman's scenic design is clean-lined and simple, mostly gatherings of tables and chairs, while Jared Mezzocchi's projections provide views of snowy Oslo and distant cityscapes, strongly supported by Jesse Belsky's lighting design. Matthew M. Nielson's sound design focuses on the evocative melodies of the Middle East.

Round House Theatre
April 24th - May 19th, 2019
By J.T. Rogers
Terje Rød-Larsen: Cody Nickell
Marianne Heiberg: Kimberly Gilbert
Johan Jorgen Holst: Todd Scofield
Mona Juul: Erin Weaver
Jan Egeland: Gregory Wooddell
Yossi Beilin: Alexander Strain
Ahmed Qurie: Maboud Ebrahimzadeh
Yair Hirschfeld: Sasha Olinick
Hassan Asfour: Ahmad Kamal
Ron Pundak: Gregory Wooddell
Toril Grandal: Kimberly Gilbert
Finn Grandal: Todd Scofield
American Diplomat: Michael Sweeney Hammond
Uri Savir: Juri Henley-Cohn
Trond: John Austin
Thor Bjornevog: Michael Sweeney Hammond
Joel Singer: John Taylor Phillips
German Husband: John Austin
German Wife: Susannah Morgan Eig
Shimon Peres: Conrad Feininger
Swedish Hostess: Susannah Morgan Eig
Recorded Voices: Ghaith al-Omari, David Makovsky
Directed by Ryan Rilette
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. N.W.
Washington, DC
Box office: 240-644-1100 or