Review: ‘Then Silence’, is it bad, is it weird? May be I just didn’t get it…

Asys Danilova

  • OnStage New York Critic

Then Silence, a contemporary Norwegian play produced by Scandinavian American Theater Company (SATC), more than anything, left me confused. It seemed like some of the common sense got lost in translation, no offence here to May-Brit Akerholt, she did a good, honest job translating Norwegian to English. Whether playwright Arne Lygre translated himself into Norwegian well, that’s the question… 

This abstract play has three actors and two interwoven narrative lines. At first we see characters named One (Kwasi Osei), Another (Morten Holst) and Brother (Christiane Julie Seidel) playing billiards for what seams like a really long time. As sounds of gurgling water slowly come through, One becomes increasingly alarmed.  He looks above the audience as if he sees something there.  One shares a vision with his companions: “A man at a distance from two other men”. Most of the scenes begin in a similar way. This time they are looking at two men torturing the third one. With the quick change of light the actors immediately transition to the described scene. With another flash they transition back to discuss if you should call sleep and water deprivation a torture or an interrogation technique. 

As the play progresses, they describe and relive more scenes built around “power, domination, loss, love, mortality and survival”. They pose questions like “What is I” and try to figure out if Me can exist without the Other. Different episodes are brought up to investigate acts of cruelty and aggression between oneself and the other on different levels, starting from personal everyday interactions (kids playing, lovers cheating) ending with political endeavors (countries claiming new territories). 

Guilt-loaded self-analysis of split consciousness, the components of which are called One, Another and Brother is not for everybody and definitely wasn’t for me. Even though my imagination was able to make some connections to historical events, philosophical concepts and personal experience, it all seemed forced and didn’t reach me on intellectual or emotional levels. 

 Then Silence photos by Kait Ebinger Pictured: Morten Holst (white guy), Kwasi Osei (black guy) & Christiane Julie Seidel (woman).

Then Silence
photos by Kait Ebinger Pictured: Morten Holst (white guy), Kwasi Osei (black guy) & Christiane Julie Seidel (woman).

Red tubes of minimalistic scenic design by Lauren Helpern were justified by the location of the last scene and gave a nice graphic backdrop. Genderless costumes by Joseph S. Blaha were appropriate for the play where gender of the character does not necessarily correspond to the gender of the actor. Lighting design by Derek Van Heel and sound by Brenda Bauer were supporting the structure of the play. But unfortunately all of these components were left floating without a chance to land on this loosely built play. The direction of Sarah Cameron Sunde lacked clarity. 

The actors seems a bit lost themselves, as if they didn’t quite answer to themselves the question “Who am I”, philosophically raised in the play. They looked more engaged in scenes that got a comical interpretation. Morten Holst got especially excited portraying an old lady in one scene and a part of the trio of political leaders with the same face in the other. His lisp accompanied by a fountain of saliva got even Christiane Julie Seidel to come out of her character and giggle on stage. 

Ultimately the show felt lackluster and didn’t come together as it could have. I felt lost and unenthusiastic, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find something of yourself reflected in this performance.

Then Silence can be seen at The Lion Theatre at Theatre Row. 410 West 42ndStreet through June 19th.  You can find tickets and more information on the Scandinavian American Theater Company’s website:!then-silence-1/xt9a8