A Doll's House
The interior of the home where Nora and Torvald Helmer and their children live is in the ready position for Christmas. The couch is red, kids' toys, including a rocking horse, are evident, and before long, a tree appears. The confines are recognizable in this familiar locale where parents and kids navigate life and times.
Nora (Ana Reeder) is an attractive woman whose husband Torvald (Adam Trese) has recently gained a promotion at the bank. Soon, Christine Linde (Linda Powell), friendly with Nora years before, appears. Christine explains that she has fallen on hard times and asks that Nora help her find employment. Nora admits her own debtand the implications are discernible. Nils Krogstad (Mark Nelson) arrives and the plot grows more complicated. Krogstad is able to blackmail Nora. Then there's Dr. Peter Rank (Tim Hopper, whose performance is admirable), dying but with romantic designs upon Nora. Things become even more convoluted later on when we learn that Krogstad and Christine had been deeply involved. During the second act, Nora returns from a costume party (dressed in an unflattering but suitable getup by Jessica Ford). The plot continues and, ultimately, Nora chooses to leave her husband and children.
George Bernard Shaw put it this way: "So she leaves him then and there and goes out into the real world to find out its reality for herself, and to gain some position not fundamentally false, refusing to see her children again until she is fit to be in charge of them, or to live with him until she and he become capable of a more honorable relation to one another."
A Doll's House was written in 1897 and is viewed as relevant, feminist, a work of conscienceas it examines a woman in struggle with a repressive society and man. Within the context of Edelstein's vision, the oppression remains. Nora is but a pawn or doll as her husband controls her. Nora does awaken and she gains the strength and self-confidence to depart.
The adaptation has great integrity as it remains true to Ibsen's original, while Edelstein edits and facilitates accessibility. From the opening moment it is obvious that the actors are trying hard to convince. Perhaps that is problematic. Some of the lines are over-articulated and the action sometimes seems forced. Thus, the impact lacks a natural potency. The central issue which addresses dominance and freedom remains profound and pertinent. The play concludes with heightened drama, but I did not feel stirred or affected at the final curtain. That said, Edelstein's decision to take an artistic risk with this version of the play should be respected.
A Doll's House continues at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through May 23rd. For ticket information, visit www.longwharf.org or call (203) 787-4282.
- Fred Sokol