Yes, there were waffles. That was the appropriate capper to the opening on Monday night of Oslo, J. T. Rogers’ enthusiastically received drama about the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the Norwegian capital. Waffles are the favorite fare of the negotiators whose palates are spoiled in the play by the motherly character Toril Grandal -- portrayed by Henny Russell, whose three characters in the production are a brilliant exercise in the transformative power of blonde wigs. So there had to be waffles, at the post-performance party at P.J. Clarke’s, and they had to be served with the very-Scandinavian lingonberries. I cannot vouch, though, whether the waffles were prepared according to the specifications of Mrs. Grandal’s family recipe.
There were also raspberries, earlier on, and a sumptuous spread of salmon and chicken and pasta. And I spotted a few partygoers knocking back Aquavit, that bracing Scandinavian spirit. Anthony Azizi, who plays the chief Palestinian negotiator, had another beverage in mind. “I gave Johnny Walker Black as opening-night gifts to people,” he told me. “It seemed appropriate, since it figures heavily in the play’s after-work relaxation.” Azizi did not hesitate to tell me his assessment of his experience in Oslo. “It’s changed my life,” he said. (I will follow up on that statement when I interview Azizi at length.) Tony Shalhoub, who was sitting nearby, and who had recommended Azizi to Bartlett Sher, the production’s director, had nothing but praise for Azizi. “I worked with him on a movie called AmericanEast, about 8 years ago, and I knew he would be terrific in Oslo.”
Playwright Rogers, wearing one of his trademark summer-fedora hats, received all his well-wishers with remarkable calm, considering that The New York Times had just called his play “crackling theater” and The Hollywood Reporter said it was “riveting” and “directed with unerringly precise attention to detail.” “Every person connected with the production has worked so hard,” Rogers told me. “It’s such a pleasure to be part of something with that level of commitment.”
Civilians at the party appreciated this professional passion. Many of them told me that Oslo is one of their all-time favorite productions at Lincoln Center Theater. I would never dare to choose a favorite; all I can say is that I’ve seen the show twice and hope to find a way to slip in again.