Chicago's Aqvavit Theater Stages Norwegian Triptych at Storefront
by Hedy Weiss
A TASTE OF SCANDINAVIA (AND BEYOND)
In recent years Chicago theater has become as globally oriented as the city itself, with visiting companies headed to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, a wide range of European playwrights putting their work in the hands of Trap Door Theatre and other companies, and coming soon, the latest edition of the International Voices Project (running March 7-17 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln), with readings of plays from Switzerland, Italy, France, Egypt, Canada, Austria, Brazil and Wales. (For additional information visit www.ivpchicago.org.)
A relative newcomer on the scene is Akvavit Theatre, which takes its name from the traditional flavoured spirit that has been principally produced in Scandinavia since the 15th century, and bears the distinctive flavor of spices and herbs, most notably caraway or dill.
The company, established in 2010, and led by Bergen Anderson and Chad Eric Bergman, was created "to investigate and encourage discussion about what 'Nordic' means, and how it is perceived through translated theater performance." Its goal is to give Nordic countries a stronger voice in North America. And the company's focus is entirely on contemporary Nordic plays. As its mission statement declares: "You won't be seeing Strindberg or Ibsen any time soon."
What you WILL be seeing soon is an ambitious project under the umbrella title of "Gjenganger" (Norwegian for "those who walk again"). It's a triptych by Jon Fosse, the acclaimed Norwegian playwright, that includes "A Summer's Day" (directed by Wm. Bullion), "Autumn Dream" (directed by Breahan Eve Pautsch) and "Winter" (directed by Paul S. Holmquist). The plays will be presented Feb. 28 - March 24, running in rotation (two per night on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and all three on Sundays) at the Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph.
Though the three plays are closely related, with overlapping characters and themes, they do not have a linear narrative. Instead, they are described as rich in "depictions of hard truths about the human condition, transcending the locales and settings of each, while speaking to the larger issues of our times." The world premiere translations presented here are by Kyle Korynta, with Bergman serving as dramaturg and designer. Original musical arrangements for the plays are by Dag Juhlin of Poi Dog Pondering.
Though said to be Europe's most-produced living playwright, Fosse's work has been rarely produced in the United States. But "A Summer's Day" was presented by Off Broadway's Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2012, with Karen Allen in the leading role of an older woman who still aches for the young husband who disappeared suddenly many years earlier. The New York Times described Fosse as "much celebrated in Europe for his Beckettian austerity, opaque mysticism and his portrayal of time as both a liberator and a destroyer."
For tickets call (800) 595-4849) or visit www.tix.com or www.akvavittheatre.org.