Oslo: Diplomacy's real face

Surprise: I liked Oslo, at the Vivian Beaumont – heartened that it was relatively balanced, researched thoroughly, and more about the Norwegians than I would have thought possible.

Of course, it was penned by a Norwegian, about the Norge couple who buccaneered the back-channel (and illegal at the time) hush-hush diplomatic maneuvering for a peace agreement between the PLO and Israel that culminated in the famous/infamous Oslo Accord of 1993.

We have not before been privy to all the behind-the-scenes sausage-making of Oslo.  The petty preening and place-scuffling that went on among the various Norwegian principals – amusing, though evidently, the Norwegians have no love lost where the U.S. is concerned.  A solid thread of Keep the Americans out! ran through the length of the drama.  We see the froideur and irony-laced sarcasm of this cool northern Scandinavian icy fastness.

Uri Samir, one of the PLO representatives, title-proud of his diploid position in the PLO, remarked to gusts of laughter, "Wouldn't it have been better if these negotiations had not been in Norway?"  He paused.  "And had taken place in California?"

Also amusing, as well as necessary, was the kaleidoscope of accents: British, Norwegian, Swedish, Israeli, Polish/Jewish, Arab, and even the flat nasal booming bonhomie of uninflected American.

A subtlety that may have escaped some viewers is that the original negotiators, two professors of economics (!) from Haifa University (another story in itself) were transplanted Israelis, clearly hailing from Old Country places, still with the vestigial Yiddish accents of Poland, accompanied by the broad gestures familiar to European-born Jews not ground down to the niceties of diplo mores and comportment.

There were send-ups of Shimon Peres, as well as quite an amusing one for the nancy-boy view of Yasser Arafat, who was portrayed hilariously as decidedly light in the loafers.

Acting, casting, dialogue quite good, and tho I shook my head no on three or four occasions, the effort is clear to make this a balanced piece.  The Israeli foreign affairs guy is completely over the top, but in fact, I know a number of former Israeli swains who are just as brash and chutzpadik.

At three hours and only one intermission, it is a bit of a marathon.  Of course, as is now de rigueur, the SRO audience leapt up and gave them a sustained standing O, and they seemed buzzed about the excellence of the perf, as all exited the encompassing gray amphitheatre.

Thank Olaf, a friend has the wherewithal to afford tickets, which are not bleacher, but I think the length of the play, plus the large cast (some 16 people), seems to militate against economy ticketing.

There were also wall projections (I doubt many people in the audience noticed the huge protesting Rabbi Meir Kahane (whom I knew as a teenager, as he was my madriach [counselor] at a Zionist youth group. He apparently liked me, I am told, for my feistiness and Brit outspokenness.), but of course, short clips of the rioters or ralliers, both Palestonian (sic) and Israeli, were projected in their authentic grainy black and white.

Also on the back scrim: venue labels – Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Tunis, London, etc. – along with dates and years. 

While I took exception to some of the strong-beer assertions of the Arab delegation, for reasons of truth versus rubbish lies told so often they nearly attain the sheen of veracity for those brainwashed into thinking no other way, the effort was clearly to evince as much of both sides as was possible.  The result is much more satisfying than the controversial and objectionable opera put on some seasons ago by another hall of the Lincoln Center complex: Klinghoffer.  Much fairer in treatment.

As several theatergoers mentioned, as we filed out of the Beaumont, the Palestonian reps revealed humanity, if witty asperity, but also dollops of welcome humor.

An Austrian woman I questioned allowed as how she saw the play by mistake, as the ballet she had wanted to attend was fully subscribed, this is not a lightweight entertainment.  It would seem to require at least a passing familiarity with the events of the era, as well as the major players.  She admitted she hadn't the background to fully understand the issues discussed.

Her bias about the two antagonists was clear: there is no unblemished party to the proceedings.  In her view, the Israelis are no angels, even when I cited massacres and bus attacks and murders of infants, all perpetrated by the aggressor Palestinians.  But then, millennial as she may have been, she was an Austrian.  Her country is one that produced Adolf H.  So, too, the Austrians were, if anything, more gruesomely anti-Semitic and arguably even now more anti-Zionist than the other European colluders in WWII, those who usually get the heavier rap more properly meant for the Austrians.

Still.  The work seems superior for what it purports to be and is frequently leavened with the situational laughter of smart men and women doing important things in the presence of alcohol and Norwegian confectionary waffles with clotted crème and raspberry topping.  Riskrem plays a leitmotif sweet role in the events of straddling Mideast peace.

Though the Oslo Accord has long been flouted by the P.A. and Palestinians, such that it is all but a suggestive nullity, this play is a fleshed out Baedeker of what it took to get to the accord and a hint of how such epochal agreements are, ultimately, arrived at.  Hard slogging, hard drinking and eating.  Dealing in good faith.  And a willingness to arrive at some modicum of amiable semi-sanity.

If only.

Surprise: I liked Oslo, at the Vivian Beaumont – heartened that it was relatively balanced, researched thoroughly, and more about the Norwegians than I would have thought possible.

Of course, it was penned by a Norwegian, about the Norge couple who buccaneered the back-channel (and illegal at the time) hush-hush diplomatic maneuvering for a peace agreement between the PLO and Israel that culminated in the famous/infamous Oslo Accord of 1993.

We have not before been privy to all the behind-the-scenes sausage-making of Oslo.  The petty preening and place-scuffling that went on among the various Norwegian principals – amusing, though evidently, the Norwegians have no love lost where the U.S. is concerned.  A solid thread of Keep the Americans out! ran through the length of the drama.  We see the froideur and irony-laced sarcasm of this cool northern Scandinavian icy fastness.

Uri Samir, one of the PLO representatives, title-proud of his diploid position in the PLO, remarked to gusts of laughter, "Wouldn't it have been better if these negotiations had not been in Norway?"  He paused.  "And had taken place in California?"

Also amusing, as well as necessary, was the kaleidoscope of accents: British, Norwegian, Swedish, Israeli, Polish/Jewish, Arab, and even the flat nasal booming bonhomie of uninflected American.

A subtlety that may have escaped some viewers is that the original negotiators, two professors of economics (!) from Haifa University (another story in itself) were transplanted Israelis, clearly hailing from Old Country places, still with the vestigial Yiddish accents of Poland, accompanied by the broad gestures familiar to European-born Jews not ground down to the niceties of diplo mores and comportment.

There were send-ups of Shimon Peres, as well as quite an amusing one for the nancy-boy view of Yasser Arafat, who was portrayed hilariously as decidedly light in the loafers.

Acting, casting, dialogue quite good, and tho I shook my head no on three or four occasions, the effort is clear to make this a balanced piece.  The Israeli foreign affairs guy is completely over the top, but in fact, I know a number of former Israeli swains who are just as brash and chutzpadik.

At three hours and only one intermission, it is a bit of a marathon.  Of course, as is now de rigueur, the SRO audience leapt up and gave them a sustained standing O, and they seemed buzzed about the excellence of the perf, as all exited the encompassing gray amphitheatre.

Thank Olaf, a friend has the wherewithal to afford tickets, which are not bleacher, but I think the length of the play, plus the large cast (some 16 people), seems to militate against economy ticketing.

There were also wall projections (I doubt many people in the audience noticed the huge protesting Rabbi Meir Kahane (whom I knew as a teenager, as he was my madriach [counselor] at a Zionist youth group. He apparently liked me, I am told, for my feistiness and Brit outspokenness.), but of course, short clips of the rioters or ralliers, both Palestonian (sic) and Israeli, were projected in their authentic grainy black and white.

Also on the back scrim: venue labels – Stockholm, Tel Aviv, Tunis, London, etc. – along with dates and years. 

While I took exception to some of the strong-beer assertions of the Arab delegation, for reasons of truth versus rubbish lies told so often they nearly attain the sheen of veracity for those brainwashed into thinking no other way, the effort was clearly to evince as much of both sides as was possible.  The result is much more satisfying than the controversial and objectionable opera put on some seasons ago by another hall of the Lincoln Center complex: Klinghoffer.  Much fairer in treatment.

As several theatergoers mentioned, as we filed out of the Beaumont, the Palestonian reps revealed humanity, if witty asperity, but also dollops of welcome humor.

An Austrian woman I questioned allowed as how she saw the play by mistake, as the ballet she had wanted to attend was fully subscribed, this is not a lightweight entertainment.  It would seem to require at least a passing familiarity with the events of the era, as well as the major players.  She admitted she hadn't the background to fully understand the issues discussed.

Her bias about the two antagonists was clear: there is no unblemished party to the proceedings.  In her view, the Israelis are no angels, even when I cited massacres and bus attacks and murders of infants, all perpetrated by the aggressor Palestinians.  But then, millennial as she may have been, she was an Austrian.  Her country is one that produced Adolf H.  So, too, the Austrians were, if anything, more gruesomely anti-Semitic and arguably even now more anti-Zionist than the other European colluders in WWII, those who usually get the heavier rap more properly meant for the Austrians.

Still.  The work seems superior for what it purports to be and is frequently leavened with the situational laughter of smart men and women doing important things in the presence of alcohol and Norwegian confectionary waffles with clotted crème and raspberry topping.  Riskrem plays a leitmotif sweet role in the events of straddling Mideast peace.

Though the Oslo Accord has long been flouted by the P.A. and Palestinians, such that it is all but a suggestive nullity, this play is a fleshed out Baedeker of what it took to get to the accord and a hint of how such epochal agreements are, ultimately, arrived at.  Hard slogging, hard drinking and eating.  Dealing in good faith.  And a willingness to arrive at some modicum of amiable semi-sanity.

If only.