Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain

The limited engagement will now play through Saturday evening, June 10 at Broadway's Hudson Theatre.

By: Mar. 09, 2023
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Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain
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A Doll's House, starring Academy Award winner Jessica Chastain as 'Nora Helmer' in Lloyd's radical new production of Henrik Ibsen's landmark drama in a new version by Amy Herzog, opens tonight at Hudson Theatre (141 West 44th Street). The limited engagement will now play through Saturday evening, June 10. Below, read reviews for this modern new take on Ibsen's classic!

Chastain is joined by Arian Moayed, a Tony Award and Emmy Award nominee, as 'Torvald Helmer,' Jesmille Darbouze as 'Kristine Linde,' Tasha Lawrence as 'Anne-Marie,' Michael Patrick Thornton as 'Dr. Rank,' and Grammy Award winner Okieriete Onaodowan as 'Nils Krogstad.' The production's understudies are Franklin BongjioCarey Rebecca BrownMelisa Soledad Pereyra, and José Joaquín Pérez.

A Doll's House thrust drama firmly into the modern age when it premiered in 1879. Now, nearly a century-and-a-half later, Tony Award nominee Jamie Lloyd and acclaimed playwright Amy Herzog will make freshly relevant a story that shocked audiences and brought forth a new era of theater. One of the most acclaimed actors of her generation, Jessica Chastain will inhabit one of the theater's most iconic roles, re-energizing the play for a whole new generation.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Jesse Green, The New York Times: It’s worth noting that linguists generally translate Ibsen’s title — “Et dukkehjem” — as “A Dollhouse” instead of “A Doll’s House.” The prison isn’t just Nora’s; she and Torvald are equally trapped in it. My only real quibble with this compelling, surgically precise revival is that it doesn’t seem to be interested in preserving that unity: in keeping our sympathy for both characters as balanced as Ibsen evidently intended. When the astonishing curtain coup finally comes, you should feel his loss no less than her liberation.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Lloyd mostly surrounds Chastain with dry, sympathetic performances. Michael Patrick Thornton, a highlight of last year’s Macbeth, plays Nora’s pining confidant, the sickly Dr. Rake, with an affecting mix of Weltschmerz and good humor. Okieriete Onaodowan brings low-key decency and desperation to the role of her secret loan shark and potential blackmailer, and Jesmille Darbouze is believably hard-nosed as her widowed friend; Tasha Lawrence has a sharp scene as the nursemaid who gave up her own child to care for Nora and hers. Only the production’s slick, peevish Torvald seems out of step: As played by the gifted Moayed—and as written in an otherwise sensitive new adaptation by Amy Herzog (Mary Jane)—he is transparently unworthy of Nora’s love from the start, and too thin a foil for her burgeoning consciousness. If that lowers the stakes of Ibsen’s famous denouement, however, Chastain keeps the tension high. What may look like a marital crisis is truly, for Nora, a matter of life and death. And as Chastain grasps her way to a final decision, she quietly, firmly brings down the house.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: Usually stripping a play down to the bare essentials — simple costumes, a few chairs — renders it rawer and more authentic. Not so in the uneven revival of “A Doll’s House,” starring Oscar winner Jessica Chastain, that opened Thursday night on Broadway. Despite an absorbing performance from the “Eyes of Tammy Faye” actress, British director Jamie Lloyd’s staging is as sterile as an operating room.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Greg Evans, Deadline: But anyone willing to give in to the wily charms and stealthy spell of this stark, thoughtful production will find a singular Broadway experience, a smart and captivating experiment in the power of the voice to transport us to places both far away and deep inside the human psyche.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Those final moments are in stark contrast to the main body of the play. There is no set decoration, no props. When characters put on dresses, have parties, freak out over letters, and—most infamously in Nora’s case—slam the door on the family home, there are none of those things. The characters say they are doing things, but they are just speaking to each other. The Helmer children, Ivar, Bob, and Emmy are mentioned, they are played with and chided—but they are not seen. This stylistic trickiness is seductive at the start, but its obsessive negation of any conventions begins to annoy; thankfully the excellent actors do not.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain David Cote, Observer: Instead, it’s just, you know, Chastain standing up. The static performance vocabulary, while it focuses attention, errs on the side of neatness and consistency—constipation, to be blunt. Even so, the lively cast infuses a fair amount of humor and warmth into the chilly, restrained minimalism. The world-weary but irreverent Dr. Rank (Michael Patrick Thornton, a sly, dry delight) punctuates a tense moment between Nora and Torvald with the unexpected, “Just do what she’s saying, man.” Nora drops the one and only f-bomb with a yearning to say, “Fuck it all.” Apart from these two cheeky flourishes, Herzog delivers a script in formal but flowing English. The always charming Moayed luxuriates in Torvald’s fussy, oblivious dickishness. Chastain, unfairly piled on for The Heiress a decade ago, is perhaps more safely cast here, using her unique blend of iciness and vulnerability to strong effect.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Frank Scheck, New York Stage Review: That immediately clues you in as to what you’re in for with this ultra-modern production which should more accurately be titled A Doll’s House: The Reading. That approach is a particular specialty of Lloyd’s, who apparently feels that such things as costumes, scenery, and lighting that’s bright enough to discern which actors are speaking, are simply too bourgeois. Instead, we’re supposed to concentrate on the text, the text, the text, which would be fine if you were attending an Actors Studio workshop. On Broadway, it just feels like the height of pretension. Theatergoers can be forgiven for thinking, “I’ve paid $200 for this ticket. Would it kill them to spring for a sofa?”

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: When the time finally arrives for Nora to slam that door with no door in sight, Lloyd and Gilmour have a stunningly abrupt solution which will likely leave you agape. Nothing Mr. Ibsen would have or could have imagined; but for Herzog’s adaptation, and for the 2023 audience at the Hudson off Times Square, it is a jolt that indeed honors—and contemporizes—the playwright’s door slam heard round the world.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Benjamin Lindsay, The Wrap: Other than the music and Chastain’s extremely emotive performance, Jamie Lloyd’s direction is a parody of minimalism in the theater. Props are banished. A few minor characters have been dropped. The actors all wear black (very Banana Republic), the costumes designed by Soutra Gilmour and Enver Chakartash. Gilmour’s set is not really a set, but an empty stage that has been painted the ubiquitous black, with a band of white spread across the bottom of the upstage brick wall so that Jon Clark’s severe lighting can occasionally throw the actors’ silhouettes against it. When the music isn’t cueing the portentousness of it all, huge banks of lighting equipment are lowered and then raised to signal ever more impending doom.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Chastain finds every note of cruel humor in Nora’s initial complacency — she’s hilarious vowing not to make it all about her while catching up with Kristine, then proceeding to do exactly that. She bravely keeps up the façade of breezy confidence even as anxiety begins to needle away at her. Watching her break — her rehearsal for a dance Torvald insists she perform for friends at a party is like a seizure — and slowly rebuild herself with steely resolve once the soul-deadening reality of her marriage is exposed is thrilling.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Gloria Oladipo, The Guardian: Amid the hangups, all members of the cast excel. Lloyd delivers an ensemble worthy of taking on Ibsen’s masterwork. Moayed intensely spotlights the casual cruelty in Torvald. Skating between sweet quips and eager putdowns, his portrayal emphasizes the disparate nature of violence. Onaodowan is magnetic as Krogstad, bringing a quiet pain and dignity to a character usually colored in blind rage.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Trish Deitch, Variety: In this revival, what’s left is a beautiful, spacious clarity about what this oft-produced play is about, who these characters are, what they mean to one another and how they may (or may not) impact audiences of today. There is nothing but dialogue pared down by playwright Amy Herzog (the rare woman interpreting “A Doll’s House,” at least on Broadway) and played with great skill by most of the actors in the production.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Juan A. Ramirez, Theatrely: There production places too heavy an emphasis on the intimacy of conversation, where A Doll’s House should concern itself with appearances—the relationships we have with ourselves and others. Here, we are merely told of cigars lit, damning letters read, street coats being unexpectedly donned. Lloyd’s final directorial choice is a masterclass in unearned bravado; one that, with its self-conscious showiness, undermines the dramatic force Ibsen and Chastain have managed to summon. It’s their power against his, and though this peculiar revival offers its fair share of treasures, they are better off taking Nora’s route.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Matt Windman, AM New York: Here, Lloyd has foregone all period detail and removed traditional production elements (including set and costumes, revealing the theater’s multilevel backstage area) and bits of staging in order to produce a seamless, direct, and fresh reexamination of the play. Although originally written in three acts, it is presented without intermission and runs exactly two hours.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Howard Miller, Talkin' Broadway: Many undoubtedly will want to attend A Doll's House in order to see Jessica Chastain's performance. Some will be intrigued by the subject matter or will be interested in this variation on a theme by Ibsen. Regardless, it is difficult to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the heavy-handedness of the production. Frankly, I'd rather see a revival of Lucas Hnath's funny and cleverly conceived 'sequel,' A Doll's House, Part 2.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain Chris Jones, The New York Daily News: The strengths of the show? Depth of intimacy. There is something very arresting about hearing these famous old lines given this kind of immediacy. The cast is made up of highly skilled and experienced actors and it’s really and truly something to hear how well all of them handle the need for dramatic tension to build in their mouths, even if their bodies often seem to writhe against their own director’s constraints. The piece is not boring: it has weight and power and gravitas. And, at times with Chastain, Nora’s mental pain (and Herzog’s deft adaptation focuses strongly on the leading character’s mental health) overflows to the actress’ tear-stained face.

Review Roundup: A DOLL'S HOUSE Opens On Broadway Starring Jessica Chastain
Average Rating: 70.0%


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