A DOLL'S HOUSE
March 3, 2014
Feet stamp faster and faster under Nora’s tumbling life. She’s dancing the Tarantella, the Italian “dance of death” for her husband’s amusement just hours before she leaps into the void of a new reality.
Henrik Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House” written in 1878 pits a beautiful woman, Nora, against society’s structural rigors and her husband, Torval’s rigidness. Nora’s the fluttery little bird and Torval’s the adult. She’s the child and he’s the caretaker. But this adorable woman-child breaks the law to save her husband’s life.
Briskly directed by Carrie Cracknell; the airy set by Ian MacNeil nearly upstages the fine cast. It circles round like a music box opening views to the living room, bedroom, office and the all-important hallway that connects the whispers and secrets.
Much of Nora’s time is expended seducing and amusing Torvald. Flitting around like a little bird, her nonstop fingers flutter touching her neck, straightening her bodice over a flat stomach and arranging her hair. The owner of a beautiful vocal instrument, Nora’s words twirl from high pitches to basso pronouncements—but by the end, these vocal swoops in tandem with the nonstop hand jig get irritating.
The drama spins around Nora’s decision to forge her father’s signature so she can borrow 9000 to pay for a trip to Italy for her husband's health. Here lender is a disgraced lawyer, Nils, and is it happens, he works for Nora's husband.
Before Nora faces the consequences of her actions, a childhood friend visits Kristine (Caroline Martin). A widow in need of a job, Nora convinces Torvald to give Kristine a job. But the job Kristine wins will displace Nils who both holds the incriminating document and once loved Kristine. Adding to the mix, a dear family friend Dr. Jens Rank (Steve Toussaint) is dying of a degenerative spine disease foreshadowing the loss of family members in this dark winter.
Come Christmas Eve, Nils learns Torvald is about to fire him. Gripped by revenge, he threatens to reveal Nora’s illegal action to Torvald. Despite her altruistic motive, the repercussions of this one, misbegotten act ignites her future.
When the final scene rolls in and Torvald learns of his wife’s indiscretion, he becomes apoplectic. Filled with outrage, he is constitutionally unable to forgive an action that will strip him of respect and besmirch his good name. But Nora’s response, a sudden stillness frozen in the realization that Torvald is not willing to accept the blame on her behalf and love her regardless, is jarring.
You hear the brakes come to an ear-splitting stop for Nora, but no clues surface earlier in Morahan’s performance to support the snap. Ibsen flips Torvald and Nora’s universe in the space of three seconds. One letter from Nils screams revenge and destruction, the second letter, opened within a minute of the first, returns the falsified document and asks for forgiveness.
The only winner in this drama is Nils. When Kristin suggests they grow old together, Nils’ life is transformed and like the Grinch, he grows a heart and a conscience.
Presented by the outstanding Young Vic Theater, “A Doll’s House” runs at the BAM Harvey through March 15.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis