Locally written play capitalizes on Nordic humor

'Blizzard of Oslo' a pageant of Norwegian jokes, bowling and men in skirts

Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2003

Can yuppie coffee, lutefisk and a Finnish bowling team save a church from bankruptcy?

It's hard to say. But the proceeds from "The Blizzard of Oslo," a play that contemplates that very question, will certainly help pay for heat, lights and the mortgage at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.

"The Blizzard of Oslo," a fund-raiser written by parishioner Kathy Buss, will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, and Saturday, March 1, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, 4212 Mendenhall Loop Road.

The play is about a Norwegian entrepreneur in the Midwest, Sjord (played by Mark Carls), who has an obsession with a delicacy from his homeland, white fish soaked in lye known as lutefisk. After hearing that his Lutheran church needs to raise money for a new foundation, Sjord trips and falls in the snow and has a hypothermia-induced vision that involves a Midwestern bowling tournament, espresso, and, finally, a solution to his church's fund-raising dilemma.

"This is not your typical church play. It is anything but," Buss said at a recent rehearsal. "We probably challenge Perseverance Theatre in some of the things said, done and implied."

The all-volunteer cast of "Oslo" consists of more than a dozen Lutheran church-goers and one small white dog named Zero. Many cast members are in the church choir, and what they may lack in acting experience, they make up for in their ability to sing on key, and even occasionally in three-part harmony.

The play is about two hours long and contains numerous silly song-and-dance numbers studded with Lutheran jokes, Wisconsin accents and double entendre, including "The Bowling Alley Manager's Blues," and "I Could Have Bowled All Night." At one point several busty men appear on stage in skirts and pantyhose.

Actors perform in costumes that combine boas, Christmas lights, bunny boots and sequins. The modest sets are made of butcher paper and tempera paint, a teenage pianist supplies the accompaniment, and two young boys flick the lights on and off at opportune moments.

"We are doing this as community outreach," Buss said. "We are definitely breaking all the rules here."

Tickets are $10 including dessert and are available at Hearthside Books, or by calling Buss at 586-3666.

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.

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