A Doll’s House
by Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Bryony Lavery
Directed by Melian Bensussen
At The Huntington Theatre Company
Through February 5th
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
The other night I saw the Huntington Theatre Company production of A Doll’s House. It was an evening of terrific theatre. The Ibsen classic about marriage, blackmail, unrequited love, and finding one’s self is a timeless work. This version has been updated by Bryony Lavery and the language flows beautifully while the story never skips a beat. The beautiful staging also makes this a visual treat.
The fine cast is led by Andrea Syglowski as Nora who plays opposite Sekou Laidlow as her husband Torvald. Mr. Laidlow plays his part subtly at first in the way he treats Nora as a child, but eventually it becomes clear just how demeaning he is to her. Nora is content with her life, as Torvald has received a promotion which means more money and a better life. However, when a secret from Nora’s past arises that threatens to destroy their marriage Nora begins to see things in a different light, though it isn’t untill the final scene that she fully understands what her life is about.
This is a first rate production, and Ms Syglowski is an absolute joy to watch. She shows great humor in the first act. Her timing is impeccable, with a full range of emotions. She moves from a wife who is being treated as a plaything by her husband to a woman who realizes she must find out for herself what life truly means.
Sekou Laidlow as Torvald plays his part subtly at first but then we see just how demeaning his treatment of Nora is. The progression works well.
Nael Nacer as Krogstad, the man who attempts to blackmail Nora does not illicit much sympathy, but Nacer conveys the pain his character is in and it is soon apparent that he is motivated by desperation and not cruelty.
Dr. Rank, the longtime family friend of the Helmer’s reveals he is dying. It is also revealed that he has been in love with Nora for years. Jeremy Webb does a fine job of portraying this unhappy man who always has a smile on his face.
And then there is Christine Linde. Mrs. Linde is played by Marinda Anderson. She and Krogstad were once lovers, and she tells Nora she will try to convince Krogstad to take back a letter he has left for Torvald that exposes Nora’s secret. In his joy at being back with Christine he agrees. However, it is Christine who is able to see everything in perspective and decides to let things play out for the Helmers. She tells Krogsatd to leave the letter. Ms Anderson plays the part as much with her expressions as with her words, and she does it well.
The final scene where Torvald reads the letter and explodes at Nora is just incredible. He tells her their marriage will now be just for show because she has brought shame on them. Then when he reads a second note from Torvald that includes the promissory note and says he is not going to pursue the matter, Torvald suddenly changes and is the happy husband again. At this point Nora fully comprehends that their marriage has always been for show and she lets all of her feelings out. Ms Syglowski is outstanding in this scene in which Nora describes how she has always been treated as a play doll, first by her father
and then by Torvald. She is not going to live her life that way any longer. It is a very powerful scene and one you will not forget. Andrea Syglowski’s Nora will be remembered.
A Doll’s House has been called a feminist play, but it is a play that should appeal to all people as it shows how often we make compromises and sometimes make bad choices in order for our lives to have order and make sense. However, by doing so we often end becoming very unhappy. Nora shows us we have choices.
When you leave the theatre after seeing this production of A Doll’s House you will have much to think about, and that is why I like it so much. You wonder what will become of Nora.
Once again, the Huntington has put on an outstanding production of a classic play. It is not to be missed.