The crux of Zandvliet's script (co-written with Anders Frithiof August) is the struggle Thea has putting her life back together and her efforts to rekindle a damaged relationship with her sons (one of them played quite effectively by her real-life son Otto Leonardo Steen Rieks). Of course, she also has to deal with her ex-husband (Michael Falch), who has his own set of problems and who has a particularly hard time dealing with Thea. She must also deal with a theater costume assistant and a one-night stand with another drinker who was part of her past, the part she has trouble even remembering. Particularly fine in the supporting cast is Sara-Marie Maltha, who serves as a stepmother to the boys and who, because she is a psychiatrist, can see right through Thea.
This is rough, gritty stuff, almost Dogme in style (much like the terrific and uncomfortable "The Celebration," which Steen was in more than a decade ago). The use of the Albee play is genius because it helps tear down the walls Thea puts up. We can see the confidence of this woman on stage when she has a well-defined character with her own addictions to hide behind, but Thea can't seem to perform even simple tasks in her own life. It perfectly juxtaposes a born actor's life against a raw exploration of a lost soul begging to be found.
"Applause" was briefly released in December to qualify Steen's performance for awards. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that many voters caught it in time, a shame because this is definitely award-worthy fodder. Along with Steen, Falch, and Rieks, Shanti Roney deserves special mention as the guy she picks up, along with Noel Koch-Søfeldt, who plays her other son, Mattias. With a running time under 90 minutes, "Applause" flies by all too quickly. But if only for Steen's performance, it certainly deserves a lot of what the title suggests.
Written by: Martin Pieter Zandvliet, Anders Frithiof August
Directed by: Martin Pieter Zandvliet
Starring: Paprika Steen, Michael Falch, Sara-Marie Maltha, Malou Reymann, Shanti Roney.