On June 9 and 10, the Lit Moon Theater Company presented staged readings of Panic, written by Mika Myllyaho, translated by Sarka Hantula, and directed by Cambria Forden, and The Finnhorse, written by Sirkku Peltola, translated by Eva Buchwald, and directed by Maurice Lord as one part of the Midnight Sun Festival at the Center Stage Theater .
The Midnight Sun Festival has great significance as an opportunity for exposure to Finnish theater, which boasts the record for per capita ticket sales in the world. This was the first time that these two plays were performed professionally in the United States, although both playwrights have presented a number of shows in Finland.
Panic addresses the issues of three middle-class men who are struggling to cope with the everyday pressures of succeeding in terms of friendships, work, and their relationships. The play manages to portray successfully both the serious and comedic aspects of life in an urban jungle as the characters slowly reveal more about themselves and their struggles. In a kind of parallel to typical therapist/patient relationships, the characters in Panic attempt to encourage and support one another through various counseling techniques. Author Mika Myllyaho gives the men their own voices while still conveying the similarities in character common in close friendships.
The Finnhorse represents a different aspect of Finnish culture entirely, as it is set in the rural countryside of Finland at a family farmhouse. The play looks at the challenges Finland faces in joining the European Union from an agricultural standpoint, and the story is told through three generations of a family who all live under the same roof. This extended household includes a grandmother, her daughter, her daughter’s ex-husband and his new girlfriend, and the formerly married couple’s two children. Author Sirkku Peltola is brilliant at conveying social issues through familial relationships, and it is no wonder this play received two major “Best Play of the Year” awards in 2005.
It’s easy to see from these works how strong the theater community in Finland really is, and we are lucky to have such delightful examples of the work of Finland’s most exciting contemporary playwrights on display again this weekend. We can only hope that the Lit Moon Theater Company and the Finish Theater Information Center use their success (standing room only at both staged readings! ) as a sign that the Midnight Sun Festival should come back to Santa Barbara for more.