Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sympathy for Torvald?

From a review of the new Long Wharf production of A Doll House:

The Helmers’ beautifully appointed living room, cleverly designed by Michael Yeargan so we can see the clapboard exterior of their house, might be right out of a Pottery Barn catalog. The glossy shopping bags stuffed with Christmas gifts come from Macy’s and Victoria’s Secret. And when Nora turns her back on this picture postcard of middle-class domesticity, she’s wearing denim and a hoodie (the costumes are by Jessica Ford). Nora in a hoop skirt is a feminist heroine, the victim of a repressive, male-dominated society. Nora stomping out in jeans, in a blaze of Russell H. Champa’s lighting, is something else: a spoiled, irresponsible brat whose husband deserves better.

What? Sympathy for Torvald, the priggish, prejudiced bully who won’t allow his wife’s favorite sweets in the house and doles out the housekeeping money as if she were 6 years old? The genius of this reimagined “Doll’s House,” which Mr. Edelstein also directed, is that it forces us to re-examine not just our ideas about a classic play but also our smug assumptions about all the social change that would seem to separate us from Ibsen’s Norway.


Thomas Garvey said...

Sounds interesting, doesn't it. Want to go?

Just btw, this may be the only Ibsen New England sees this decade, it seems!

Daniel Bourque said...

I'd love to see this, and I'd bet the chances are that it will get a NYC run if the reviews are positive. Actually, there are two productions of the play being done in the Boston area within the next year- one at New Rep (which is Theresa Rebeck's adaptation) and another at the Gamm in Pawtucket... and I've long wanted to direct my adaptation of the play and may just get around to it before long. Doing modern versions of the play is quite a trend, though I've yet to see one that really works; I saw the Rebeck adaptation when it premiered at Hartford Stage some years back, and that's the one which New Rep is doing; I don't think that it really does anything for the play updating it since much of the tension in the play comes from the then (turn of the century) shocking idea of a woman leaving her "place" (AKA the home). There's also the recent Donmar Warehouse production which had Gillian Anderson and Christopher Eccleston in it which ran in the West End and was modernized. The key, I think is finding another way into the material... which means going further then translating it and creating a full scale adaptation. Personally, I've seen it done three times; the aforementioned Rebeck version at Hartford Stage, the Small World Big Sky production which ran down at the Factory space a few years back and the Mabou Mines adaptation at St. Anne's Warehouse last year- which was just amazing and the best production I've yet to see even though the liberties it took with the play were extreme.

...and speaking of all things Ibsen, Portland Stage did a Peer Gynt in collaboration with Figures of Speech last year; I had hoped to catch that but didn't- a good friend who saw it said she thought it was a disappointment.