By Beatrice Williams-Rude
Being an avid admirer of Ibsen, and of Scandinavian culture generally, the prospect of attending a production by the Scandinavian American Theater Company was irresistible. The artistic directors, the charming Albert Bendix and Henning Hegland encouraged great expectations.
The title, Then Silence, posits the downfall of the human race, illustrated through a series of disjointed scenes. In the finale, water, having been rising worldwide, has reached inescapable levels and after the flood there will be silence. No Noah this time
The author, Arne Lygre, sees this work as a take on the Western World’s “struggles with power, domination, loss, love, mortality and survival.” Grand themes, but the devil is in the execution.
The three characters, Brother, One and Another are placed in situation after unrelated situation, frequently looking out at others (unseen by the audience) and commenting on their activities.
It opens with a telling segment on torture—it’s illegal, we don’t do it, but semantics aside, we do, and of course, “they,” the unseen others, do it.
Much is made of you, us, and there is no “we.” “We have not lost ourselves.” Universal themes, but while the specific may lead to the universal, the universal does not lead to the specific. We do not know who these people are; we cannot sympathize or empathize. We simply do not care.
Because we don’t know them, don’t understand what makes them tick, much less their relationships with one another, even the sex scenes are neither interesting nor erotic.
The leit motif: “a man is standing distant from two others.” This serves as an introduction to each new shard.
The author means for his play to represent a fragmented world, and this it does. The performers, Morten Holst, Kwasi Osei and Christiane Julie Seidel are heroic. Just memorizing this mass of inchoate material is a feat.
The translator of this work, originally in Norwegian, is May-Brit Akerholt. The director is Sarah Cameron Sunde.
The lighting and sound directors, Derek Van Heel and Brenda Bauer, respectively, produce some stunning effects, almost blinding on occasion, but signifying we know not what.
While ideally, the reach should always exceed the grasp, this pretentious exercise taxes the audience mercilessly. It’s the longest 90 minutes this reviewer has ever spent in the theater. The “Silence” couldn’t come soon enough.
Then Silence, in previews, will open on June 7 at The Lion Theatre, 410 West Forty-Second Street (Theatre Row) where it will run through June 19. For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or www.telecharge.com
Photos: Kate Ebinger