‘Oslo’ review: Play by J.T. Rogers dramatizes Israel, Palestine accord

Almost a quarter century after the fact, the significance of the Oslo Accord of 1993 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (which led to the famous photo of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the South Lawn of the White House and a Nobel Peace Prize) is highly debatable.

Even if the agreement did not lead to a lasting peace or resolve many contested issues, did some good come out of it, including recognition by Israel and the PLO of their respective legitimacy? Or, did it instead intensify the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and lead to more violence, including Rabin’s assassination?

J.T. Rogers, a politically-oriented playwright who has written about the Rwandan Genocide and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, dramatizes the tense negotiations that led to the Oslo Accord in his long-winded (three hours long!) but smart, occasionally humorous and objectively-observed ensemble drama “Oslo.”

It is receiving its world premiere at Lincoln Center Theater’s off-Broadway space, under the direction of Bartlett Sher, who is best known for the acclaimed Broadway revivals of “The King and I” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Rogers frames the play around a married pair of Norwegian diplomats (played by Tony winners Jefferson Mays and Jennifer Ehle) who are unexpectedly able to broker an evolving series of secret peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives at a castle in Norway.

The performances are excellent and the spare, video-enhanced staging is seamless, accommodating swift changes in setting. The play may be dense and choppy, but a more narrow and delicate treatment probably could not have captured the scale and intensity of the political process.

If you go

“Oslo” plays through Aug. 28 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, 150 W. 65th St., lct.org.