Currently at Dobama Theatre is the dark comedy The Norwegians by C. Denby Swanson. Swanson must have been inspired by the movie Fargo, and decided to take a turn at her own Coen-esque genre. The results involve two women scorned in Minnesota and the really, really nice gangsters—Norwegian hit men—they hire to whack their ex-boyfriends. Olive (Christine Fallon+) is a transplant from Texas and Betty (Lara Knox*) 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!). Betty has referred Olive to Gus (Tom Woodward*) and Tor (Robert Ellis*), a partnership in the whacking business. What Tor doesn’t know is that Gus has a special relationship with the clients. What Olive doesn’t know is that Gus is Betty’s own ex, and she has already made some decisions about ending their relationship.
This production is marketed by sharing a New York Times review that states it “is often hysterical”, and in Dobama press, where it states the play is “hilarious.” I would offer that this production of the play is funny, but not often hysterical or hilarious. The “Fargo” idea is not fresh anymore, and thus, the play must be directed with an incredibly fresh delivery. What is delivered is a good rendition of the material, and not a nuanced presentation of comedic timing.
The standout of this production is Knox. Her Betty is a hard core bitch, equipped with a purse, that could double as a magic well with incredible depth. Knox takes us from being hard core, to moments of truth, that are very effective in providing a layered character to connect with on different levels. Her bit with the contents of her purse is a scream. Fallon offers a feisty and colorful character, who does her best to keep up with Knox, but certainly has the tools to face off against the hit men. Her energy is certainly on point. Ellis is a hoot as Tor. He brings the down home charm and kindness, with deft execution. And, it really makes it a treat to watch him navigate his profession, along with the fact that his explanation of the Big Bang Theory, would involve Norway as the center. Woodward reminds me a gangster mutt. His penchant for smacking someone upside the head with a baseball bat as a career choice is entertaining to watch. The two hit men are certainly a pair of delightful, entertaining henchmen.
Shannon Sindelar directs a funny rendition of the script. The cast needed to be more equally tuned. Scenic Designer Laura Carlson Tarantowski designed a cool icy set, equipped with an ice waterfall, black ice background that illuminates for creative purposes, and a frozen base with its own iceberg. Lighting Designer Marcus Dana gives great looks to the proceedings. Costume Designer Inda Blatch-Geib continues her trail of professional appealing work. Sound Designer Richard Ingraham adds his artistic touch for clarity. Technical Director David Tilk pulls the elements together nicely.Stage Manager Joel Rathbone called a great show.
Overall, this is a funny show. The cast has a good time creating a train wreck of relationships and love gone wrong, or getting out of love.
$10-$28 Reserved Seating
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118