Onaodowan and Jessica Chastain.† Photo by Emilio Madrid.
A Dollís House
been almost a century and a half since Henrik Ibsenís A Dollís House premiered
in Norway in 1879.† But this domestic drama is hardly ďold stuff,Ē in
playwright Amy Herzogís new version, and under the astute direction of Jamie
Lloyd.† Starring Jessica Chastain as Nora, this current revisiting of Ibsenís
masterpiece at the Hudson Theatre is something to celebrate.
Dollís House, in
many ways, is a quite traditional play based on a blackmail plot that only in its
last scene takes an astonishing turn.† For those who need a quick refresher on
the plot, here it is in a nutshell:† Nora once forged her dying fatherís signature
on a loan she received from the lawyer, Nils Krogstad, to restore the health of
her husband, Torvald Helmer. Krogstad, who always knew Nora forged her fatherís
signature, decides to confront her with it years later when her husband, as the
new bank manager, fires him from his job. Threatening to expose her deceitful
act to her husband, the underhanded Krogstad gives Nora a way to save her
reputation: she will use her influence with her husband to rehire him at the
this complicated situation is intriguing to watch throughout, the real twist in
this drama is when the conventional ending of forgiveness, reconciliation, and
restoration of the familial order doesnít occur at the denouement.† Instead,
Nora forces her husband into a discussion that promptly concludes with her
feminist declaration of independence.† Itís hardly a spoiler to say that Nora
leaves Torvald and her three children.† But what makes the ending so compelling
is its subtlety.† Nora is quiet as a church mouse as she departs.
this same subtlety that Chastain brings to her Nora, which makes her
performance a brilliant one.† She never overacts her iconic part or strains in
delivering her indelible lines.† She trusts Ibsenís language to work its magic,
and it does.
the play proper begins, the audience sees Chastain sitting in a chair on stage
that rotates in mesmerizing circles for twenty minutes.† It creates a sense of
a woman trapped in a situation that has yet to be outlined by her
consciousness.† As the other characters join her on stage in folding chairs,
the playís opening dialogue between Torvald and Nora is intoned:†
Do I hear something chirping out there?
Tweet tweet tweet!
Is that a little bird?
Yes it is!
playful conjugal relationship between Torvald and Nora is masterfully
established by Ibsen from the get-go.† Nora is portrayed as her husbandís
little songbird rather than as a woman who is his equal.† Ibsenís drama was once
described by the renowned critic Harold Clurman as a ďlove story in reverse.Ē†
And, indeed, the audience will witness in this two-hour drama how a loving
couple slowly devolve into strangers who are no longer able to live together in
the sacred institution of marriage.
Moayed and Jessica Chastain in A Dollís House. Photo courtesy of A Dollís
is supported by a top-notch cast, with a few particularly outstanding
performances.† Thereís the excellent Arian Moayed who plays her husband
Torvald, a lawyer who will soon become the new bank manager, and is widely
considered a pillar of the community and ideal spouse to Nora.† Jesmille
Darbouze convincingly portrays the widow Kristine Linde, Noraís old friend who
unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep, in need of a job.† Okieriete Onaodowan
inhabits the slimy lawyer Krogstad with a suitably oily personality.† And
Michael Patrick Thornton is well-cast as Dr. Rank, the terminally ill family
friend whoís in love with Nora.
streamlined version of Ibsenís play makes the three-hour drama clock in at just
under two hours.† Remarkably, the original power of the work isnít diluted in
this retooled script.†† And what it lacks in flowery language, it makes up for
in contemporary verve.†
Chastainís Nora explaining to Kristine that perhaps someday she will reveal to
her husband that she took out a loan to save his life.† Instead of her
character reciting the antiquated phrase ďmany, many years hence,Ē Herzog
reinvigorates her language by making it sound more natural and down-to earth: ďMaybe.†
When weíre older and Iím not as attractive.† Then it might be a good idea to
have something up my sleeveóĒ
Gilmourís set, lit by Jon Clark, is minimalism to the nth degree.† Props are
practically nonexistent in this production, prompting the actors to become
quasi-mimes at time and audience members to suspend their disbelief, and then
and Enver Chakartashís mix of ink-black and indigo-blue costumes enhances the
mood and atmosphere of this classic that doesnít end happily-ever-after.
cast of A Dollís House.† Photo courtesy of A Dollís House.
it is the living texture of a production that makes it fly.† And, with Jamie
Lloydís swift pacing, and the radiant Chastain leading an efficient cast, this Dollís
House never drags but is executed with amazing dispatch.
many have pointed out that Noraís conversion in the play is too sudden to be
credible, others have argued that what makes Ibsenís drama succeed is having an
actress worth her salt perform Nora.† To this end, Chastain is heaven sent:†
She makes the protagonistís turnabout plausible by her creative acting.† When
Chastain delivers her final speech, a spellbinding tract for feminism (and
individualism), the theater is so quiet that one can hear the proverbial pin
drop.† Indeed, it allows the audience, not only to hear Noraís speech verbatim,
but to reflect back on the protagonistís naÔve youthfulness, her loving
dependence on Torvald, her yearning for a better life, and her anguish on
discovering that she no longer loves her husband.† It is this unified fabric of
Noraís character that Chastain projects that makes her performance
unforgettableóand this Dollís House worth seeing.†
the Hudson Theatre, 141 W. 44th
more information, visit www.adollshousebway.com
time: 1 hour; 50 minutes.