Obligatory spoiler warning: there will be spoilers in this review, I’m sure. I don’t know how many or how deep they’ll go, but once I’ve seen a show, I find it hard to write about it without…well, writing about it. A review, by nature, is a spoiler because it’s telling you what the show is about, what happens, and what it all means. Reviews that attempt to explore a show without providing any significant details or analysis are perhaps the most boring form of writing I’ve ever encountered. And with that, I’ll get back on my Huffy bike, ride away, and finish this review. – XOXO, Miss Jaye
I mean, when it’s good it’s all sunshine and puppies and unicorns and shit like that. When it’s good, it’s very good. But when it’s bad, things get…ugly. Promises get broken. Feelings get hurt. Pain can give way to rage and the next thing you know you’re stalking their social media accounts, posting angry blogs about how terrible they were, and dump-sacking their house with flaming bags of dog poop. I mean, as a “for instance.” It’s something I heard…from a friend. Don’t judge me.
Olive (Alivia Holkesvig) and Betty (Nicole Quam) are both southern transplants to Minnesota (from Texas and Kentucky, respectively) and they both have broken hearts. Like the landscape in winter, their lovers’ hearts became cold and barren and they left the two ladies out in the cold. This is what they are talking about one night in a bar over more than a few glasses of wine. About how terrible men are, how the Minnesota cold gets into your heart and makes you hard, and how great it would be if you could just maybe make your ex disappear…forever.
We’ve all been there: in our darker moments we wish pain, disaster, injury, and all other sorts of karmic repercussions onto our exes and their new loves. Maybe even death. But Betty has more than a dark fantasy. She has a plan. And a business card.
Enter the titular Norwegians: Gus (Jeff McMahon) and Tor (Clayton Perala), a pair of hit men for hire that, against type, are just as proud of their Norwegian heritage as they are of their fledgling “startup” business. We start the show in their “office” – the stage suggests some sort of abandoned warehouse or garage, in keeping with their chosen profession – as they interrogate Olive about how she came to find out about them and what services she would like performed. Throughout their encounter, they go back and forth between planning her lover’s execution and playful banter about Norwegian heritage and the typical Norwegian personality.
Let’s be clear – this isn’t the sort of cutesy regional humor piece that the Fire Hall is known for; shows like Don’t Hug Me and Guys on Ice have brought in large crowds of people looking for easy laughs about the loveable hijinks of characters just brimming with “Uff das” and “You betchas!” That is not this show. While Gus and Tor’s explanations of the simple tastes of the Norwegian character and their slightly bumbled attempts to build a marketing plan are quite entertaining (both McMahon and Perala do a great job of playing into the stereotypes while still giving their characters more edgy qualities), the show’s comic tone is definitely of the dark variety. There is some foul language, and if your delicate sensibilities can’t handle a generous helping of F-bombs then feel free to take a pass. But you’ll be missing out on a pretty clever little show acted by a talented cast.
The two pairs mirror each other in a lot of ways: Olive is sweet and bit naïve, even as she gets sucked deeper and deeper into her revenge plot, and this is mirrored in Gus’s role as an affable brute. Both live very much in the moment and don’t think much about the future, especially related to the ripples of their present actions. Olive has small moments of regret where she almost calls off the hit, but she’s too deeply mired in how hurt, how angry, how betrayed she feels. Tor never considers the consequences of his actions, which leads to an interesting revelation about his relationship to Betty, his former client.
Tor and Betty, on the other hand, are the thinkers. They know where they’re heading…and exactly who needs to get hurt along the way. Betty is bitter, but her anger is more shrewd and calculating and she orchestrates a revenge plan where everything is hidden in plain sight. But will her ultimate goal be undone by Tor’s secret ambitions? I guess you’ll just have to see the show to find out (Whoa – see what I did there?! It’s not all spoilers here at the World of Champagne!)
The show, directed by Marcus Woodard, is a fairly solid offering from the Fire Hall, and it’s nice to see a tight, compact show after the character-packed extravaganza that was The Drowsy Chaperone (and the season closer, Arsenic and Old Lace, promises to operate on a similar scale). Some of the technical aspects could have been finessed a bit; there is one scene change in particular that is painfully long, bringing back the bar setting for what feels like a split second before it disappears again. The costumes are fine in presenting modern characters in a realistic setting, but more attention could have been paid to emphasize character development or to work towards a more cohesive story. Some of the scenes could have used additional variety in blocking to literally “keep things moving” as there is a lot of sitting at tables, having conversations in this play. Yes, there are some definite rough spots in the show, and some additional time spent refining and clarifying could have brought out a more elegant darkness, but the cast and crew still offer up a compelling dark comedy about love gone wrong that flips regional humor on its head.
The Norwegians play the next two weekends at the Fire Hall Theatre, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm. Discounted tickets are available for seniors, students, and military.
Tags: Alivia Holkesvig, C. Danby Swanson, Champagne Dreams Productions, Clayton Perala, community theatre, Fire Hall Theater, Fire Hall Theatre, Firehall Theater, Firehall Theatre, Greater Grand Forks Community Theater, Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Jeff McMahon, Maecus Woodard, Miss Jaye, Nicole Quam, Nikki Quam, The Norwegians, World of Champagne