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Clifton’s “The Norwegians” Hits the Mark

Review by Kay Sloan of The Norwegians: Clifton Performance Theatre

Clifton Performance Theater is Cincinnati’s most delightful venue for experiencing plays in intimate, close quarters. With each new play, the stage and seating shift to accommodate the action so that the drama unfolds in close proximity to the audience, making for a rich theater-going experience.

The current production, C. Denby Swanson’s The Norwegians, is no exception. Under Cathy Springfield’s expert direction, this comedy unfolds with increasing absurdity as two Southern women hire a couple of droll, polite Minnesotan hit men – the eponymous “Norwegians” — to knock off the boyfriends who abandoned them during a winter so cold that even love became icily slick.

Uprooted from their native Kentucky and Texas, Olive and Betty eagerly spill their heartbreaks to each other in a bar and just as eagerly sign on Tor and Gus to wreak their revenge. With each surprising turn of plot, the play reveals as much about regional personalities and being at home in a strange place as it does about love and betrayal. The brilliant Southern writer, Eudora Welty, once wrote of her characters, “they were human beings terribly at large, roaming on the face of the earth.” Olive and Betty could easily have stepped from the pages of Welty’s satiric stories, as they navigate the forlorn territory of the broken heart in an unfamiliar place. Once they discover that this strange and cold world is also inhabited by kindly hit men like Tor and Gus, a new adventure begins.

Michael Bath and Sean Dillon give spot-on performances as Gus and Tor, body language muted by outsized winter garb and Minnesotan accents pitch-perfect for the understated hit men. As Olive and Betty, Miranda McGee and Carol Brammer offer versions of Southern women that transcend stereotype and take us right to the vagaries of the human heart.

This beautifully-acted, smoothly-directed new production at Clifton Performance Theater is not to be missed.