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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Nora at Intiman Theatre

Also see David's recent review of Gigi
and report on Adam Guettel's Light in the Piazza

A few years back, Ingmar Bergman adapted Henrik Ibsen's timeworn classic A Doll's House, and thanks to Intiman Theatre's ongoing commitment to presenting classics in a fresh way, Nora has found its way to Seattle, in a largely satisfying production, directed with vigor and style by Intiman's artistic director Bartlett Sher.

Unlike Sher's Titus Andronicus or marvelous Cymbeline, the milieu and time period of Nora is untouched. But the Bergman adaptation, translated by Frederick J.and Lisa Lone-Marker, knocks probably a good 45 minutes off the tale (Sher's pacing helps too) and while it may rob a few characters of as much clarity as you may find in other translations, this streamlined re-telling is probably a better fit for contemporary audiences.

Nora
Kristin Flanders and
Stephen Barker Turner

Kristin Flanders (who previously excelled as another, lesser known Ibsen heroine in Intiman's Lady From The Sea), is outstanding in her minutely detailed portrayal of the devoted Nora. A prototypical upper class 1870s housewife, she slowly evolves through neglect and lack of recognition into a liberated lady who finally breaks, though not without regret, from domineering husband Torvald. Stephen Barker Turner's Torvald is a solid performance, and he is most impressive in his final scene where he begins to crumble as he realizes he will no longer have a toy wife to push around. Laurence Ballard, fresh from his grand romp as Dolittle in My Fair Lady at the 5th Avenue, is in fine dramatic fettle as Nora's sympathetic, syphilis plagued friend Dr. Rank, his drunk scene being a highlight of the production.

Mari Nelson's Christine is the least well developed performance on the stage, and the character who seems to have lost the most in the script trimming process, while John Procaccino is a bit hit and miss as the pathetic yet basically unsympathetic Krogstad, whose letter revealing Nora's forgery of a promissory note sets up the doll's exit from her house. As the Helmer's child Emmy, Olivia Spokoiny is eerily solemn and mute till her gleeful curtain call and seems also to be suggesting a child version of Nora herself, observing what her future holds in store.

The handsome, spare scenic design by Matthew Smucker places actors either side of the stage, observing the action until they make their entrances. Exemplary period costumes are by Debb Trout, and Greg Sullivans's lighting design by is as ideally muted and chilly, as the snow that softly falls outside the Helmer's home.

Hardly a sure bet to pack Intiman's houses each night due to its downbeat nature, Nora is still a must for any serious Seattle playgoer. Nora runs at Intiman Theatre, Seattle Center, through May 18. For further information visit their web-site at www.intiman.org.


Photo: Chris Bennion




- David-Edward Hughes



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