Maggie Lacey and John Douglas Thompson star in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House
(© Gerry Goodstein)
by Deirdre Donovan
could be better than seeing a new stage production of Ibsenís A Dollís House?†
Naturally, seeing it in tandem with Strindbergís The Father.† New
York theatergoers now have a rare chance to catch both masterpieces at the Polonsky
Shakespeare Center, where Theatre for a New Audience is presenting them in
by Arin Arbus, the two works give you a double lens to investigate the gender
divide in marriage.† Strindberg, in fact, wrote The Father in response
to Ibsenís Dollís House.† Unsettled by Ibsenís study of a middle-class
marriage, he was determined to ink his own social parable, and succeeded by
carving out a gem of a play.
Dollís House, of
course, is the better known of the pair.† No question itís Ibsenís most
celebrated work.† Ibsen wrote the drama when he was over 50 and it became an
instant hit at its premiere in Stockholm in 1880.
does Arbusí new outing of the war horse measure up?† You betcha. But donít
expect to hear any taffeta phrases spoken by the iconic characters.† Arbus uses
Thornton Wilderís taut English translation (it debuted on Broadway in 1937)
that remains faithful to Ibsenís poetry but registers on your ear like ordinary
a refresher on the plot. When the lights go up, Nora Helmer is getting ready
for Christmas.† Her husband Thorwald recently received a promotion to bank
director and their future looks bright.† Out of the blue Noraís childhood
friend Christina materializes at the Helmerís door in search of a job from
Thorwald.† Her unexpected arrival triggers a series of events that uncover
secrets from Noraís past that threaten her marriage and familyís well-being.†
Most disturbing, a heroic act she did long ago for Thorwald when he was gravely
ill becomes twisted into a crimeóand her husband now condemns her foolishness.†
Jolted by her husbandís blindness and lack of sensitivity, Nora slams the door
on her marriage and children, and walks into an uncertain future.
the plot is riveting, the acting is the lynchpin to a good production.† And,
fortunately, the acting ensemble here is a strong one.† At first blush, John
Douglas Thompson might seem miscast as the doting husband Thorwald.† Thompson,
in fact, was last seen at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center playing the titular
character in Tamburlaine, a part ideally suited to his acting gifts.
True, the bourgeois Thorwald doesnít demand the same degree of wild passion.†
But just wait til Act 2 arrives for the fur to fly.† Yes, Thompson really
displays his virtuosity at the eleventh hour.† Maggie Lacey, in the pivotal
part of Nora, has the necessary range too, gradually evolving from the
doll-like wife to the determined woman who insists on her independence.† Linda
Powell, as Noraís friend Christina, projects the care-worn air of a
hard-working woman whoís just become a widow.†† Nigel Gore, as Doctor Rank, is
solid as the playís raisonneur.†
it comes to the creatives, they are all on their toes.† Riccardo Hernandez
creates a narrow set that conveys the boxed-in atmosphere of the Helmer home.†
Marcus Doshiís lighting ensures that we catch each beat of the play.† And Susan
Hilfertysí period costumes are pure confections.
Douglas Thompson plays the Captain and Maggie Lacey plays Laura in August
Strindberg's The Father.
(© Gerry Goodstein)
have the celebrity of The Dollís House, but it is one of
Strindbergís top-drawer works.† The story revolves around a cavalry officer
Captain Adolph and his wife Laura who vehemently argue over their daughter
Berthaís education.† Their argument intensifies when Adolph points out to Laura
that his opinion trumps hers, since she gave away her rights when she married
him.† His wife gains the advantage, however, when she cunningly confides to the
family doctor Doctor Ostermark that Adolph has been mentally unbalanced for
years and, and she has a letter in her possession in which her husband writes
that he is going mad.† Spoiler alert, readers!† The letter foreshadows what
will soon happen.†† And it doesnít take a rocket scientist to know who is
winning in this war between the sexes.
acting ensemble delivers the goods once again here.† Thompson, as the Captain,
balances his performance with displays of hubris early on and then the
desolation of a man suffering a severe mental breakdown.† Lacey portrays the
Captainís wife Laura with all the ruthlessness of Lady Macbeth.† Goreís Doctor
Ostermark is pitch-perfect as the gullible family doctor.† And in the other
supporting roles, Laurie Kennedy, as Margaret, is convincing as the Old Nurse
who has the unenviable task of straitjacketing the Captain and Kimber Monroe as
Bertha is credible as a young daughter torn between loving her mother and
Spartan set hits the mark with its plain furniture and hunting accoutrements.†
Doshiís half-lighting is downright eerie.† And HIflertyís costumes summon up
the military and civilian look of the 19th century.
who want to sharpen their understanding of the theatrical difference between
the two titans, Ibsen and Strindberg, need look no further than this
double-bill.† Arbus does a double slam-dunk by staging these two 19th-century
works in rotation.† With a fine acting ensemble, and Thompson and Lacey playing
opposite each other as the principals in the two productions, this theatrical
event is a must-see.
June 12th .
the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, 262 Ashland Place, Brooklyn
more information and tickets, visit www.tfana or† phone† at†
time of A Dollís House:† 2 hours, 15 minutes with one intermission.
time of The Father:† 100 minutes with no intermission.