WGBH's Jared Bowen Reviews A Doll's House

Bob Seay: It is a true classic – Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Huntington Theatre Company. A new translation.

Jared Bowen: This is a translation never done in the US before until now. I just attended the premiere at the Huntington Theatre Company last night. This is one of the things I live for in theatre. When you have a director who cracks a piece open and makes you look at it in a profoundly different way, and that director is Melia Bensussen. And she has taken the Ibsen classic about a young couple, Nora and Torvald Helmer, and they’re a couple who are just getting into life. In this production we see some different things here. First of all, they’re a younger couple in their twenties or thirties. This was a deliberate choice by Melia Bensussen. They’re an interracial couple, so immediately we know that this is going to be a different, non-traditional production as opposed to maybe some of the stodgier settings we see from Ibsen plays, but that makes it so real. Ibsen was a very naturalistic, realistic playwright. So we find this couple trying to gain a foothold in life and really for them that’s striving financially. She wants to have the trappings of life; she wants to be successful, as does her husband. We see the clashes of marriage. This is often called a feminist play and Melia Bensussen tries to get away from that and you have a couple that are really struggling to find themselves from each other. And so what happens here is Nora, again trying to be financially sound, goes behind her husband’s back at one point, is slightly duplicitous to ensure her husband’s security, and when that becomes discovered by a colleague, she’s blackmailed and that puts everything into turmoil. For anybody that doesn’t know anything about A Doll’s House, I’m trying not to give too much away. So there’s a very great sense of conflict here. Here’s a little piece of the play in which we see Nora admitting the secret to her friend Mrs. Linde:

NORA: Papa didn’t give us one shilling. I found money.

MRS. LINDE: You found the money? How is that possible? You won the lottery!

NORA: Haha the lottery? Where’s the skill in that?

MRS. LINDE: So where did you get it from? You couldn’t have borrowed it.

NORA: Oh why not?

MRS. LINDE: Well a wife can’t borrow without her husband’s consent.

NORA: What if the wife knows a thing or two about money? What if the wife has a business brain?

Jared: Some very essential conflict here. I feel that this piece is made so strong by two women. One you don’t see, Melia Bensussen, who’s crafted what I think, is an extraordinary production, especially the way it ends. It’s a great great terrific theatrical device. But also Andrea Syglowski who plays Nora. We previously saw her at the Huntington Theatre Company in Venus in Fur. She is so captivating here. She’s mesmerizing from beginning to end. I feel from the moment she comes on stage, you’re with her from her family which is conflict to being a very funny actor on stage. You really find a new way into this piece. It’s a profound and electric interpretation.

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