Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Norwegians off Broadway

Look for this recently closed off-Broadway play to spin off a road show in the Midwest. It's not exactly "Church Basement Ladies," but it's bound to be a crowd-pleaser from Chicago to Minneapolis, the Dakotas and points in between.

"The Norwegians" has distinct echoes of "Fargo" (but without quite as much of those irritating ya-sure-you-betcha accents) with a pinch of Ole and Lena, a dash of Garrison Kiellor's news from Lake Wobegon and a great big dollop of the "Lillyhammer" series now in its second season on Norwegian television (NRK) thrown in. I saw it a couple of weeks ago, in what struck me as the kind of off-Broadway venue I've always read about but never experienced before -- up two flights of rickety stairs on West 78th Street in Manhattan.

Promo on the play's website at http://www.norwegians.us/main.htm:

"The Norwegians" by C. Denby Swanson is a strong, bitter comedy about women scorned in Minnesota and the really, really nice gangsters--Norwegian hit men--they hire to whack their ex-boyfriends. Olive is a transplant from Texas and Betty is a transplant from Kentucky, but neither of them was prepared for the Norwegian men they would fall in love with there: the practical, warm, thoughtful, destructive, evil, jilting kind. If you're a hit man in Minnesota, 83% of your clients want to take out their ex (Oofda!). Olive has referred Betty to Gus and Tor, a partnership in the whacking business. What Tor doesn't know is that Gus has been sleeping with the clients. What Olive doesn't know is that Gus is Betty's own ex, and she has already put out a hit on him with a Swiss firm. Can Betty call off the job in time to let Gus do his? Should she?

The play is the first outright comedy by C. Denby Swanson, a Texas native. In it, she applies film noir and mob movie genres to life in Minnesota, whose winters she endured for a few years. …

The play's website links to a New York Times review, "Hit Men and Hurt Lovers Meet Minnesota Nice," by Anita Gates that ran March 19, 2013. She concludes:

Who knows whether Ms. Swanson is an original theatrical voice? There is every chance that she wrote “The Norwegians” after falling asleep during a late-night rerun of “Fargo.” But this profane, playfully dark comedy is often hysterical. True, it’s a low-budget production up a steep flight of stairs, but you don’t find 90 minutes of good-hearted laughter at Off Off Broadway prices every day.
There was a carrying-coals-to-Newcastle quality about going to New York City to hear jokes about Norwegians and "Minnesota nice," but the audience was clearly enjoying it. And, after all, once upon a time Brooklyn had more Norwegians than Bergen and almost as many as Oslo. My cousins from Long Island and I may not have been the only Norwegian-Americans in the crowd, and the humor and acting were as universal as, well, disenchanted ex-lovers and nice guys in the wrong line of work.

Jonathan Slaff & Associates public relations firm has this at http://www.jsnyc.com/season/norwegians.htm:

Both audiences and critics have found the play hilarious, but some of its "legs" may be due to it riding a wave of Norwegian entertainment. "What does the Fox Say" by the Norwegian group Ylvis, is about to pass "Gangnam Style" as the most-watched video of all time. "Lilyhammer," the Norwegian-American television series starring Steven Van Zandt about a New York gangster trying to start a new life in Norway, is a solid hit that is now in its second season.
Adds Slaff & Associates: "The production, which began Off-off Broadway last season, has had over 160 performances so far. It played Off-off Broadway from March 8 to April 14, 2013 and re-opened October 3, 2014 on an Off-Broadway contract. The Off-Broadway run was suspended November 24, 2013 to accommodate a pre-existing commitment for the theater space. Encouraged by solid audience demand, The Drilling Company resumed the Off-Broadway production January 9, 2014 as an open-ended run." The show closed Sunday, April 27.

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