It’s the all too familiar scene: naked over oatmeal, the lesbian airing out her yeast infection in the kitchen.
“There’s nothing wrong or ugly about this!” she shouts defensively, surrounded on two sides by gawking audience members on Vesturport’s elaborate tree-house stage.
To fans of Lukas Moodysson’s Swedish comi-drama Tilsammans, on which the play is not so loosely based, the scene is in fact startlingly familiar. The rest of the production’s skeletal story line ought to be too, a little too familiar in fact, as the superficial highlights of the film’s plot rigidly unfold to a rather underdeveloped and newfangled Icelandic cultural context. Hinging on regurgitated comic climaxes and punch lines, the play only sporadically and superficially indulges in its own interpretation of the film’s idealistic assertions and plot.
Yet even as it gets lost trying to establish its own personal character outside of the film’s shadow, the production is by no means fruitless, and manages to be entertaining through to the end. The production’s primary disappointment lies in its indifference to the sensitive nature of language, casually overlooking Iceland’s innate xenophobia, even as the subject subtly takes centre stage. Speaking in English to accommodate the foreign actors, many of the Icelandic performers continually stumbled robotically through their lines, while Elena Anaya and Gael García Bernal, also speaking in a second language, remained gracefully unspoiled by overconfidence in their language.
Not wanting to rest its fate entirely on its success at rehashing the film, the play nevertheless seems to depend on and demand the comparison. Ultimately it is the distinct spirit of the film that is left wanting, misplaced perhaps, somewhere along with a winning cultural subtext; in this case, the not so familiar Icelandic character.