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Weird Science


Elling is filled with oddness. Set in Oslo, it follows two mentally ill men trying to adjust to post-asylum life. And Coolidge, employing her arsenal of expressions and voices, plays four different women who help set the men on a path to something resembling functionality, including a slam poet, a Nurse Ratched–y R.N., and a troubled pregnant neighbor named Reidun who falls in love with the simpleminded 40-year-old virgin Kjell Bjarne (Fraser). The essence of Reidun is drawn from Coolidge’s relationship with her dog sitter. “He can drive and stuff, but he’s slow—I don’t know what’s wrong with him,” she says. “But he’s so good with my dogs. And my relationship with him is certainly better than my relationship with my last boyfriend. There are some people who make you feel less lonely. He would show up to see my dogs, and I’d go, ‘Oh, my, there he is, there’s Michael. I think that’s how Reidun feels [when she sees Kjell Bjarne].’ ”

O’Hare plays Elling, Kjell Bjarne’s delusionally anxious, agoraphobic roommate, and Coolidge is inspired by his offstage sanity, which she speaks of with bewilderment and awe, like an anthropologist who has discovered a lost tribe. “I would wonder, Is he in his room meditating?” says Coolidge. “No. When he has a spare moment, he’s gone off to his accountant’s, or he’s on the phone, speaking Portuguese with a woman about his rental unit. That he could handle all the life stuff and carry a Broadway show—I’m fascinated.”


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