BWW Review: A DOLL'S HOUSE at Raven Theatre
Classic plays provide us a snapshot of the time period in which they were written. They can show us how far we may or may not have progressed as a society. One of those classics, Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" (now in production at Raven Theatre) is presented in a crisp and refreshing way. Raven Artistic Director Cody Estle remarks in a program note that what is addressed in "A Doll's House" "remain issues in our own time."
In its Chicago premiere, this new adaption by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey and Kirsten Brandt, with a strong, solid cast under Lauren Shouse's sharp direction, thrives with well rounded and compelling storytelling.
Told at Christmas, 1879, "A Doll's House" focuses on Nora (Amira Danan), a complex woman who is struggling with her current state of life. Her marriage to Torvald (Gage Wallace) feels reflective of the time. Their roles are clearly defined by their gender, yet we are given glimpses into Nora's defiance of this and disdain for it.
We learn that she has gone to great lengths to get money to care for Torvald during an illness and she is currently facing devastating exposure by Krogstad (Nelson Rodriguez), the man who secured the money. When the secrets are revealed, so is the true character of Torvald. This is Nora's final straw and we witness one of the theatre's most memorable departures.As Nora, Danan hits all the right notes with an exquisite performance that is both inspiring and heartbreaking. With absolute precision, she plays the outwardly happy wife and mother who is suffering inside. Wallace does a masterful job of revealing the layers of Torvald. In each scene, he flips the script with a simple glare, touch, or gesture, all painting the picture of a man who is both bound to his societal role and his love for Nora. The final scene between Nora and Torvald is a truly compelling piece of acting by Danan and Wallace.
Rodriguez plays Krogstad with an eerie edge balanced with appealing delight as his burdens are lifted from his shoulders. Shadina Patterson as Mrs. Linde nicely grounds the frantic nature of Nora. Mike Daily is charming and endearing as Dr. Rank.
Jacquline Penrod's expansive set is both a rich, vast room with exquisite detail matched by the coldness of the life contained within it. Gorgeous costume design by Izumi Inaba clearly defines each characters' place in this world. At times feeling like their own characters, the original music & sound design by Eric Backus, and lighting design by Becca Jeffords, are striking and captivating.
Ibsen's story was considered shocking in its time. You can only wonder if any audience members may have been quietly cheering in the final moments. Or were they angry and outraged? And with whom? How much have those reactions changed? Or not? Either way, 2020 audiences are lucky to have this mesmerizing production where they can spend some time in "A Doll's House."
"A Doll's House" runs through March 22 at The Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street in Chicago. For tickets, visit raventheatre.com or call (773) 338-2177.