CELIA IPIOTIS REVIEWS "A DOLL'S HOUSE"
"I'm leaving." The measured finality of that statement, uttered by Nora, reverberates throughout the Hudson Theater in the mesmerizing revival of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House set in 1879 and succinctly adapted by Amy Herzog. Stripped to the bones, this quiet but ravishing production directed by Jamie Lloyd, plays out like Japanese Noh theater or spare, ancient Greek drama. All the elements are distilled in the service of the language and slippery emotion built into each word.
Straight backed, blond wood chairs on a turntable (by Soutra Gilmour) establish the time, place and ambiance. Lloyd moves individuals around the bare stage like chess pieces: Characters stand behind one another, in front, to the side, close by, or far away. In gradual increments, the stage choreography by Jennifer Rias frames individual's relationships to one another.
Nora (Jessica Chastain) commands center stage. Her porcelain skin and delicate build suggest a living doll caught between her husband Torvald's (Arian Moayed)fantasy and her reality.
It's Christmas in Norway and Nora, a young woman with several small children, appreciates beauty and the finer things despite her husband's frugal household allotment. Due to an illness that befalls Torvald, the doctor recommended they spend a year in Italy. Nora secretly secures a loan to pay for Italy by forging her father's name to the document. Desperate to keep this information from Torvald, Nora secretly works to pay off the loan.
Just about every evening, Nora and Torvald are joined by their dear friend Dr. Rank (Michael Patrick Thornton). Part of the family lubricant, Dr. Rank feels Nora's distress and at one point, it appears as if Dr. Rank might help. But that never materializes as he loses strength struggling with a severe illness.
When her widowed friend Kristine (Jesmille Darbouze), steps through the door and pleads for a job at Torvald's bank, that action triggers the unraveling of a family. Kristine's new job comes at great cost to Nils Crogstad (Okieriete Onadowan) who loses his job when she's hired. Aware of Nora's forgery, Nils, desperate to regain his job, leans on Nora to get it restored. In no time, he darkens her thoughts with talk of blackmail and quickly becomes her psychological predator.
At every corner, there is another revelation or another secret, another love, another lost leider. Although not as severe, echoes of Ibsen's male/female relationships remain with many couples to this day: Women "dress up" and "perform" for men, while men control the purse strings.
Explosively contained performances permeate this searing production of A Doll's House. See it.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis