Aug 8, 2014

Iceland Follies

I spent a fascinating afternoon a few weeks ago at the Minetta Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village talking to some unfailingly gracious Icelanders, and a few slightly baffled American actors, about a strange new musical they're working on called Revolution in the Elbow of Ragnar Agnarsson Furniture Painter. I learned a bit more about Iceland's acute economic crisis (parallel to ours and everybody's in 2008, but much worse) than I'd known before, and I learned that there are very good reasons Icelanders' names often seem to be interchangeable (patronyms is one reason, a rigorously tight naming regimen is another). And I'm happy with the piece I wrote up for the paper of record. A highlight:
Conceived by Ivar Pall Jonsson, a tall, taciturn former journalist from Reykjavik, the show is unmistakably his take on his nation’s rocky financial fortunes.

"It’s a story about love and deception, and how people get caught in something that’s superficial,” Mr. Jonsson said, perched in the theater’s upstairs lobby on a kidney-shaped couch that had been tried out as part of the show’s set but discarded. “They get carried away, until one day, reality knocks on the door, and they wake up. That’s the story I wanted to tell.”

Why, though, set it inside a man’s elbow? In a conception that suggests “Horton Hears a Who” meets “Fantastic Voyage,” Mr. Jonsson’s musical concerns an apparently tiny race of people living in Elbowville, who dine on lobster fished from their host’s lymphatic channels and keep viruses as household pets.

He chose a “surreal setting,” Mr. Jonsson said, so he could tell the story without reference to “specific details and persons.”

Mr. Jonsson’s brother, Gunnlaugur Jonsson, who is credited with Ivar for the show’s story and serves as its executive producer, added: “If you have a play about something in the financial world, honestly it can become very boring, because you have to explain complicated things. Doing it abstractly in a world that doesn’t exist, you can just get rid of all of that and get to the heart of the story.”
But one thing I didn't talk enough about in the Times piece was Ivar Pall Jonsson's music, which really is quite lovely; a key track is embedded above.

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