Apparently Icelanders take their Huldufólk (hidden people) seriously. According to Wikipedia, builders are careful not to trouble rock formations where these supernatural tricksters are believed to dwell, and a NATO base in the small fishing town of Keflavik was thoroughly checked for evidence of unseen beings that might be harmed by the presence of AWACS and Phantom jets.
In Out of Iceland, Drew Latimore’s quirky valentine to Eylenda, an outspoken pillar of the elfin community comes out of hiding to demonstrate its remarkable gifts as a singer, dancer and monologist—and of course to perpetuate the time-honored tradition bedeviling the lives of mortals with acts of magical mischief.
No actor could better embody the role of Thor, our hobgoblin du jour, than the volcanically talented Lea DeLaria. Sporting a vaudevillian getup of blue suspenders and a horizontally striped undershirt (occasionally augmented with swan feathers), DeLaria throws herself into the part with an elasticity and physical imagination rarely seen outside of animated cartoons. Highlights of her performance include an Icelandic translation of “Bali Hai” sung in Bjorkian warble.
As Thor’s unwitting playthings, Jillian Crane and Michael Bakkensen provide an apt foil for De Laria’s mishegas. Crane plays displaced New Yorker Caroline, who has traveled alone to the middle of Iceland ostensibly to gather material for a book she’s writing. In actuality what she’s looking for is isolation: a chance to put a painful past behind her and start over with a clean slate. Tracing the history of two early 20th-century explorers, she rashly attempts to climb a volcano but succeeds only in knocking herself unconscious. She is taken in by Hal (Bakkensen), whose county twang can only be American— although he’s been living in desolate Askja for so long he considers himself “just ‘bout as Icelandic as they come.” He, too, has come to this remote environment to escape a tragic history. The last thing on either person’s agendas is giving love a second chance. But wily Thor becomes their cupid, pushing the reluctant couple closer and closer through a series of mystical pranks.
Though it stalls a bit in its exposition-laden midsection, Latimore’s whimsical script is engagingly nutty and gives the actors plenty of offbeat character traits to play with. Director Josh Hecht takes a yin-yang approach to the material, endowing the unlikely lovers with just enough wonk and Thor with just enough humanity to give the show a sense of balance. He is bolstered Narelle Sissons’s glacial, angular set and Ryan Rumery’s incidental music, which help transport the audience to a place of wonder, mystery and inspired silliness.
Out of Iceland; Written by Drew Latimore; Directed by Josh Hecht; Walkerspace; 46 Walker Street; New York, NY 10013; (866) 811-4111