Magic Time! ‘Someone Is Going to Come’ at Scena Theatre

Someone Is Going to Come is a comedy of menace with a roiling undercurrent of sexual tension. It evokes ominous noirish goings-on in a scary remote locale told in stark idiosyncratic dialogue. And it’s funny as all get out. Scena Theatre’s impeccably perturbing production of the Norwegian dramatist Jon Fosse’s biting three-hander had me howling at the odd turns of phrase and the actors’ quirky inflections. But perhaps what hit me as hilarious was meant to seem simply inscrutable? Like a knife that could cut two ways? Strange, very strange.

Nanna Ingvarsson and Joseph Carlson in Someone Is Going to Come. Photo by Jae Yi Photography.

Someone Is Going to Come does not contain the sort of wink-wink, nudge-nudge cues to yuck-yuck that are typical of commercial American comedy. And this is a work by a World Famous Playwright From a Foreign Country (though not well known here). So perhaps one ought assume it is inappropriate or uninformed to find this internationally credentialed highbrow work a hoot?

Absolutely not. This play and this production gleam like existential comic gold.

Fosse’s spare, austere, and distinctive voice—often compared to Pinter and Beckett—can loop through restatements with a quality of incantation that is both mesmerizing and risible.

As the play begins a man and a woman arrive at a remote dilapidated house by the sea that they have bought with the intention of being “alone together… together alone.” HE (David Bryan Jackson) and SHE (Nanna Ingvarsson) keep saying so over and over, with slight variation: They are going to be “alone together….together alone…together alone in each other.” There’s something creepy about their incessant redundancy, and a curious tension builds that edges on ridiculous.

HE appears to be in his 60s, SHE appears to be younger.  It’s not clear whether they are married, but they seem a devoted couple. Except that HE seems inordinately controlling of her. It’s as if their isolation from other people suits some nefarious purpose of his. Suddenly SHE becomes filled with dread, a fear that, as the title says, someone is going to come, someone who will intrude on their solitude.

Nanna Ingvarsson and David Bryan Jackson in Someone is Going to Come. Photo by Jae Yi Photography.

At this point in the play it becomes impossible to take one’s eyes off Ingvarsson, as she begins to signal with her voice, face, and body the sexual subtext of what’s going on. The ostensible horror they speak of is that an unwelcome intruder is going to come. The actual unspoken horror subtly conveyed in Ingvarsson’s and Jackson’s performances is that she is realizing she is trapped and she desperately wishes someone will come to rescue her.

Sure enough MAN (Joseph Carlson) shows up, a ruggedly handsome loner. Turns out he’s who sold the couple the house. His hunky presence prompts a fit of proprietary jealousy and paranoiac rage in the older man. It steadily becomes evident that the unsafe circumstances SHE first feared were misnamed: The someone who scares her is now the man she came with. It also steadily becomes evident that SHE and MAN have a magnetic sexual attraction. But what will HE do to her if SHE does what she wants to with MAN?

Ingvarsson’s navigation between the two men becomes one of the most transfixing character arcs with solely subtext to go on that I can recall seeing on stage. Sometimes she holds it all in, suppressing every untoward sexual thought—but just then a slight single movement of her foot speaks monologues of let-go longing.

The way Fosse crafts the turgid erotic undercurrents of that thrillerlike psychological progression, through a sparse surface of language, is gripping; and the three actors, masterfully directed by Robert McNamara, make moment after moment spellbinding, and now and then gut-bustingly funny.

Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.

Someone is Going to Come plays through February 5, 2017, at Scena Theatre performing at the Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.

‘Someone Is Going to Come’ at Scena Theatre reviewed by David Siegel.

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John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg is executive editor of DC Theater Arts. He writes both reviews and his Magic Time! column, which he named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it, he explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees. Decades ago, in college, John began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile, his own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then John’s life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction essays, articles, and books and had a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg. Member, American Theatre Critics Association.


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