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Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Nora
Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule


Jessie Taylor and Mike Perez
Photo by Frank Atura
The last production by Asolo Conservatory class of 2017 is Nora by Ingmar Bergman, adapted from Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.

My early experiences with the original consist of reading it and hearing it on a wonderful Caedmon Records performance. I first saw it onstage a few years ago in an excellent production by American Stage. A Doll's House is quite possibly one of the 20 or so greatest plays ever; the role of Nora for a woman is comparable to King Lear for a man. Beware the folly of adapting a masterpiece—the possibility of ending up with something less good than what you started with is huge. I fear that this fate has befallen Ingmar Bergman.

In stripping the piece to its bare bones (99 minutes vs. 2 1/2-3 hours for Ibsen) he has left some gaping holes. The relationship between Dr. Rank and Torvald (also Nora) is so gutted that he could almost disappear from this version, except that he drives an important plot point near the end. All of the relationships between secondary characters (Mrs. Linde) and our central family are barely delineated, and characters' actions become less convincing than in the Ibsen. The relationship between Torvald and Nora also suffers, though not as badly. The character of Nora is the biggest loser, almost all of the emotional depth is gone and here she seems insufferably whiny.

Direction is by Andrei Malaev-Babel, head of Acting for the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. From "in Lieu of director's Notes" in the program: "Bergman was not attempting to create a literary work, but rather a text he could put onstage. This is why separating Bergman—the writer of Nora from Bergman—the director of Nora is useless. In writing Nora, Bergman simultaneously directed it."

What I saw on stage gives lie to what Mr. Malaev-Babel has written because none of these promising actors deliver anything resembling their best, and in fact the entire cast slogs through the piece without the presence of a guiding hand. All of the production values are completely in synch with Bergman and Malaev-Babel's minimalism: rather generic costumes by Becki Leigh that give no definition of time or place, and scenic design by Derek Miller that might have been right at home in a Bergman movie (and may I state that I am not much of an Ingmar Bergman fan)—cold, austere and somewhat Nordic.

The vision for this production of Nora simply eludes this reviewer. Perhaps others will find it more to their tastes.

Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training presents Nora through May 1, 2016, at the Cook Theater in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Box Office (941) 351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.

Cast (in order of appearance):
Torvald Helmer: Mike Perez
Nora: Jessie Taylor
Mrs. Linde: Danielle Renella
Nils Krogstad: Rob Glauz
Doctor Rank: Jacob Sherburne
Hilde: Amber Lageman

Directed b Andrei Malaev-Babel
Scenic Designer: Derek Miller
Lighting Designer: Chris McVicker
Costume Designer: Becki Leigh
Sound Designer: Rew Tippin
Stage Manager: Devon Muko
Voice and Dialect Coach: Patricia Delorey
Choreographer: Eliza Ladd


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