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Review: Norway at BCT

Idaho native Samuel D. Hunter premieres touching new play

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Boise Contemporary Theater's production of Norway by Idaho native Samuel D. Hunter is heartbreaking, endearing, haunting and insightful in ways that remind audiences of the power of live theater, weaving a bond between viewers and characters and creating a shared experience that lingers in the mind for days.

Norway marks the first time one of Hunter's plays has been performed in Idaho, and the BCT staging is a co-world premiere of this touching story.

From the opening scene, the audience is thrust into a stark, cold world as one-time high school friends Brent and Andy meet under a light post in a parking lot in Lewiston. Soon after, Andy (Evan Sesek) strips off all his clothing in that same parking lot, and commits suicide by freezing to death.

From that point on, the audiences is taken along as Andy's grieving father, Mark (Arthur Glen Hughes) desperately tries to put his son's death into some kind of context that fits within the regimented confines of his world. As an ex-military, fundamentalist Christian preacher, Mark's world is black and white. Complicating Mark's reality is Brent (Clint Morris), who was forced to out himself as a teenager and whose very existence is an affront to everything Mark clings to. Brent is a touring pianist, and when Mark discovers that Andy spent the last months of his life following Brent's performances, he tracks down and confronts Brent, demanding to know the truth about his son.

What follows is a downward spiral played out through flashbacks and juxtaposed against Brent's interpretation of the work of Beethoven, which he plays fast and loud to challenge listeners to reexamine the classics. He explains that just because we're used to hearing them one way, doesn't mean that's the only way to play them. The music, like life, depends on who's behind the keyboard.

The music leads the way as the characters explore ideas of personal identity, expectations, love and happiness, all set against a winter backdrop--a season that seems to promote reflection.

All three actors turn in strong performances, and Hughes and Sesek both open windows into characters tortured by a growing loss of control. Morris is a standout; his ease and humor provide needed grounding, and his musical skills--he performs on a baby grand piano placed at center stage--are an impressive addition.

A simple set of parking lot lines, a light pole and the piano-- coupled with restrained lighting--help illuminate the characters' raw emotions, and the stark, cold landscape creates a powerful reality that leaves the audience with something to think about.

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