Whoever invents new endings for plays will open a new era,” wrote Anton Chekhov in a letter to a friend. “The damned endings won’t come. The hero either gets married or shoots himself!” As the troubled couple of Jon Fosse’s living-room drama Night Sings Its Songs is already married, the play unfolds with an inevitability both tragic and tedious. Over the course of an afternoon and evening, the relationship between Young Man (Louis Cancelmi) and Young Woman (Anna Guttormsgaard) combusts.
Fosse, a renowned novelist and playwright in his native Norway, receives a U.S. debut courtesy of director-translator Sarah Cameron Sunde. Writing spare, elliptical prose—his subject-verb-predicate sentences rarely indulge in an adjective, adverb, or additional clause—Fosse has enjoyed comparisons with Beckett and Pinter. But these particular scenes from a marriage seem more redolent of the domestic disquiet of Bergman or Albee. And though often absorbing, the world Fosse presents appears perhaps less singular or fully realized than that of his predecessors. Nevertheless, Sunde directs ably enough, and Cancelmi and Guttormsgaard lend their roles, respectively, heavy-browed malaise and reckless volatility. Though Young Woman insists, “No one comes here. No one wants to visit us here,” this couple merits stopping in.