A time to think

SATC’s reading of Thinking Time shows that though circumstances may change, love is always a matter of the heart, not the head

Photo: Ellinor Dilorenzo / courtesy of SATC
From left to right: Back row: James Edward Becton, Kwasi Osei (director), and Oliver Burns. Front row: Margaret Curry, Jordan Monaghan, and Maryam Myika Day.

Julia Andersen
New York

Scandinavian American Theater Company presented a play reading of Thinking Time by Norwegian playwright Liv Heløe at Scandinavia House in New York on February 13.

The drama is drawn on the juxtaposition of two women falling for forbidden men during World War II and in present time. Ruth, dying great-grandmother, shares memories of meeting her German husband-to-be in Nazi-occupied Norway, and her great-granddaughter Nina is infatuated with Moreno, an illiterate immigrant from Romania. Nina’s story mirrors her great-grandmother’s and presents her romantic choice in a historical context.

Written on commission for Theater Junge Generation (Germany) and Brageteatret (Norway), the play was inspired by Heløe’s aunt who moved to Germany during the war.

American actors—Jordan Monaghan (Dirty Beautiful, True Blood, Secret Life of the American Teenager), Margaret Curry, Maryam Day (42nd Street), James Edward Becton, and Oliver Burns—performed a translated version of the play at this reading.

Judging from the audience’s response and questions during Q&A session after the show, the cast created a mostly moving performance of the material. Maryam Day brought humor and sassiness to the role of Ruth, especially in a scene where she is torn on whether or not to go for a German soldier.

Henning Hegland, one of the founding members of SATC, said that it was important to keep memories about WWII’s consequences alive. He explained that the postwar treatment of children born from Norwegian women and Nazi soldiers was brutal. “Unless we remember that, we won’t be able to look at similar situations today and try not to repeat the same mistakes, giving ourselves time to think.” Hegland said during Q&A session.

A few moments of the play, however, felt far fetched. Although Ruth and Nina face similar challenges, it was hard to buy into a romance between a young privileged Norwegian girl and an illiterate Romanian street musician she met a couple of times. It was not clear what attracted her to him. I also did not appreciate the use of pantomimic gestures during the reading. It made it strange, especially in the scene where Ruth dies, and Hilde “touches” her grandmother. Ruth stood on the other side of the stage in a parallel story. Far be it for me to advise SATC, but a couple of small tweaks will go a long way.

Thinking Time’s main message is that love and circumstances do not change over time. In the end of the play Nina poses the question: “What choice do I have?” She can choose to believe that Moreno is a thief, like her music teacher told her, or she can choose to believe that he is a genuine man. Spectators are left to dig into themselves for answers.

Julia Andersen is a freelance writer based in New York. She is a Columbia University graduate and has a particular affection for Scandinavian films.

This article originally appeared in the March 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.