I saw *Oslo* on Broadway on 4/23/17. It's a new play by J. T. Rogers about the top-secret peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine held in Olso in the early 1990s. My thoughts on the play are all over the map.
Con: It was too long (almost three hours) and often boring.
Pro: How else do you tell this story? How could you honor the intricacies of the experience in a tight, 90-minute play?
Con: The great Jennifer Ehle was sort of wasted. She gave a lovely performance but didn't really have that much to do.
Pro: She's playing the female lead in an important new Broadway play. What else do I require of her? Here she is with Jefferson Mays, who plays her husband and colleague.
Con: Too much shouting, especially by that one Palestinian character. I'm sure Bartlett Sher felt he needed to add some shouting to amp up the drama and/or wake up members of the audience.
Pro: This is not as neat a pro/con as my other examples, but I'm going to mention it anyway. Someone from *War Paint* should see this show, because there were many kinds of foreign accents in *Oslo,* some of them very thick, and yet you could understand every word. Patti Lupone should take a meeting with the person in charge of accents for *Oslo.*
Have you read *The Season* by William Goldman? It's a peerless book, a non-fiction tour through the 1967-68 Broadway season. Goldman saw every show that played on Broadway during that time and had nearly complete access to the creative teams of the shows, the rehearsal process, the out-of-town headaches, the whole megillah.
Goldman used the term "snob hit" in this book. It was his term for a play by Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, or another somewhat demanding English playwright. Audiences flocked to these shows, not because they enjoyed them, but to show off the fact that they had seen them, they GOT them. People would take the playbills from these shows and casually leave them on the coffee table when they had people over for dinner. "Oh that! Have you seen it? FASCINATING play, never seen anything like it."
J. T. Rogers is an American playwright, and I'm not sure he was out to write a snob hit, but it has a strong whiff of one. It's sort of hard work for the audience. I'm not sure it's exactly stageworthy, I think this story would have been better told in a two-hour PBS special directed by one of the Burns brothers.
But in the end it's very touching. It's a play about peace, and that's a lovely idea, right?