Scena Theatre’s Someone Is Going to Come is a tightly wound riddle about danger; the lightly concealed danger lurking in a couple’s push-pull of a relationship that is further inflamed with an unforeseen entanglement.
With plaintive, spare dialogue full of sharp darts, Someone Is Going to Come is a rare sighting from Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse having its DC premiere at Scena Theatre. New to me, author and playwright Fosse (b. 1959) has had productions throughout Europe (and even China). He has received his share of prizes and awards including the International Ibsen Award.
Directed with an arresting, coolly economical touch by Scena Founder and Artistic Director Robert McNamara, Someone is Going to Come packs an enormous amount of incisive observations into its 75 minutes. Making it such a quietly unsettling theater experience are the meticulously incisive performances by seasoned actors David Bryan Jackson, Nanna Ingvarsson, and Joseph Carlson.
The work of the three-member cast, whether singly or as a small ensemble, is a master class into the geography of the mind. Together they provide an introspective trip accomplished with short bursts of dialogue spoken with both nuance and flair. An added bonus are their almost minuscule physical suggestions and poses that silently emphasize any number of spoken words.
So, what happens in Someone is Going to Come? A couple has left their old world behind, relocating to a house by the sea; totally sight unseen. Why they left is left ambiguous. Politics? Affairs with others? Are they just introverts?
The couple is HE (David Bryan Jackson as a tight, anxious, but initially confident older man who slowly loses his confidence, control, and place) and SHE – Nanna Ingvarsson with such infinitesimal actions; collapsing into a fearful unsure state one moment or a sly smile of acceptance for an unexpected offer the next. Watching Ingvarsson at work is like watching the exquisite beauty of someone thoroughly skilled at Tai-Chi.
At first we see HE and SHE blissfully holding hands, apparently content and ready to enter their new home. They speak with a sense of devotion to one another. Each saying several times: “We will always be alone together, be alone in each other.”
But will that be possible?
Soon SHE has hesitations. The house is too old and certainly not what was expected. The nearby sea is too big. And SHE wondered out loud, there is no one else around; wouldn’t they be lonely? Will someone come? The ever confident HE softly and smoothly tries to convince her all is well for they have each other. Or do they?
Soon enough comes the unexpected appearance of MAN, played by Joseph Carlson as a sensual, seductive young man, though clearly creepy when he needed to be, adding aggressive tension with each of his several appearances. Carlson was like Jack Nicholson in the movies – whenever he appears he adds ‘heat.’ No one was expecting MAN to come. Needless to say, the younger virile MAN, knocks older more placid HE into a fetal position of jealousy and fits of verbally abusive rage. HE worries, what if SHE finds MAN worthy of her attentions?
With this set-up Fosse finds his own ways to the age-old, if not Biblical story about two men and one woman in a very small space. In about 7 short scenes, Fosse finds his own intriguing sui generis ways to depict unhappiness, resentment, and suspicions. Lines of dialogue are repeated time and time again, each time with different inflections and emphasis that provides new meanings to each word.
The Scena technical team and Set Designer Michael C. Stepowany has created a spare setting full of decay. It is composed of what is best described as almost thrift shop treasures of furniture and appliances befitting a house full of the stench of a dead old woman’s pee, as we hear in Fosse’s dialogue. The lighting, by Marianne Meadows, adds visual ummph key to the character’s trepidations. Costumes by Alisa Mandel are most interesting with the military camouflage garb worn by MAN. Is he hiding something under his attire?
And then there is Denise Rose’s splendid sound design. Pre-show music is electronic with few hints of tremors to come. During the production, Rose used a way turned-up booming sound of a big bass drum to aurally describe knocks on the door to scare the be-Jesus out of HE and SHE. And Rose’s selection for the musical fade-out as the show blacks out; well it is cute, way cute indeed.
With three masterfully actors that regular DC theater-goers know well, Someone is Going to Come is an accomplished little puzzle palace about a couple mired in misery, leashed to one other, living in the stench of an old house by the unforgiving sea. As for how long the characters might helplessly wonder what will come next, well, Playwright Fosse leaves that up to each audience member to argue over.
Since there are plenty of great H Street bars and restaurants, do see Someone Is Going To Come, and argue away. I am partial to a slice of pie at Dangerously Delicious Pies myself.
Someone is Going to Come is fascinating and vivid entertainment. I can’t get Fosse’s play and those three characters out of my mind.
Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.
Note: Scena is now in its 30th season of producing quality international drama from well-known playwrights and from those rarely produced in this area. In this particular case, Scena produced Someone Is Going to Come in association with the Embassy of Norway.