There’s a saying that warns about leaving a woman scorned, and in the Ohio State Department of Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Norwegians,” two women have it out for their exes in a hilarious way.
Written by C. Denby Swanson, the play follows two women who hire Norwegian hitmen to take care of their ex-boyfriends.
“It’s about two women who have both recently moved to Minnesota, and they kind of find each other, and they’ve gone through some heartache, so they decide to hire some very nice hitmen to take care of their ex-boyfriends,” said assistant director and graduate student Shelby Brewster.
Brewster also served as the play’s dramaturg, who researches topics related to the play to help immerse the director and the actors into the world of the play. She researched information about Norway, Minnesota and the places all of the characters are from.
“It’s full of biting humor and witty exchanges between characters, so I think both of those things epitomize what the show is about,” Brewster said.
Describing it as a “dark comedy,” director Jennifer Schlueter read the play in its draft form and introduced it to OSU as part of a new initiative she created, called Raw Theatre.
“Raw Theatre aims to create new opportunities in our season by staging work with smaller casts and compressed production schedules,” Schlueter, who is also the director of undergraduate studies, said in an email. “In this, we aim to give our students the experience of creating high quality work within tight technical parameters, with finding unique artistic solutions within intentionally limited resources, because that is the kind of theater many of them will make once they graduate — making more with less!”
And “more with less” rang true for costume designer and graduate student Joshua Quinlan, who had less time and resources to prepare the actors for the stage.
“This is our first time doing it (Raw Theatre),” Quinlan said. “It’s an experiment in and of itself. All the designers were given really small budgets. We’re working mostly with stock furniture, stock costumes, stuff like that. So it’s being really resourceful on our part.”
Quinlan said preparation for “The Norwegians” started back in March before taking a break for the summer. For regular productions, the cast has a normal rehearsal period of six weeks to two months. But under Raw Theatre, the cast had a shorter time to prepare.
“We’ve also condensed the whole rehearsal period,” Quinlan said. “So I think they had just over three weeks to rehearse.”
Schlueter said Raw Theatre provides an opportunity to bring smaller plays to the stage that might not get as much attention as larger-scale shows.
“Many of the best plays written in the last decade — just check out the list of Pulitzer Prize winners — have small casts, and we have not been able to produce them at OSU because we’ve been looking to find big cast shows to provide as many acting opportunities as possible to our students,” she said. “But by adding Raw Theatre, we’re trying something new.”
Brewster said she believes “The Norwegians” shows how people are influenced by where they come from in how they act and who they are.
“It’s very clear how the supporting characters are influenced by where they come from, so it might not always be that clear to us in everyday life, but I really think that’s true of people in general,” she said.
Quinlan said he sees another side of the play, defining it as a relatable experience in the event of breakups.
“I think it’s a really humorous take on the cynicism of a breakup,” he said. “And I think it’s an almost relatable play to a point where you harbor those strong, hateful feelings toward your ex and you could almost kill them, but (the characters) actually go through with it. It’s almost cathartic in that way.”
For Schlueter, it’s the fresh humor that’s the real appeal.
“It’s 75 minutes of rowdy comedy,” Schlueter said. “It’s a brand new play fresh from its off-Broadway run. It’s written by an up-and-coming woman playwright, which is really important in light of the statistic The Kilroys have pointed out to folks in American theater.”
The Kilroys are a group of Los Angeles-based women in theater who’ve compiled a list that “includes the results of the first annual industry survey of excellent new plays by female-identified playwrights,” according to its website. The survey discovered that “in three widely-discussed studies of plays produced in the 2012-13 season, only 10.5 percent on Broadway, 21 percent in Washington, D.C., and 22 percent in Los Angeles were written by women,” the website noted. The list is designed as a tool for producers to use to end the under-representation of female voices in American theater.
Quinlan said he encourages the OSU community to go to a play that he describes as “quirky and fun.”
“It’s going to be such a fun night. There’s never a dull moment in the script,” he said. “I think everyone can relate to it in some way, because I think everyone has gone through a breakup or stressed over someone to some degree, and it’s a completely cathartic experience — especially for our college-aged students. They’ll really love it.”
Schlueter said Swanson is set to make an appearance on campus to lead a playwriting workshop for students on Friday.
A public discussion with Swanson is scheduled for Saturday night. The discussion is also set to feature Schlueter with Brewster serving as moderator, and is open to everyone who has seen the play.
“The Norwegians” is set to be performed at the Mount Hall Studio Theatre at 7:30 p.m. from Wednesday through Saturday. 3 p.m. showings are available Saturday and Sunday.
Ticket information is available at theatre.osu.edu.