I first encountered Ibsen’s A Doll House on a Megabus on my way home to Connecticut this past summer, and I must admit I was originally not a fan of the play. I felt that I spent so much of the piece in utter disgust at the manner in which Nora and Torvald interacted, and frustration towards Nora as to why A) She would ever do business with a man like Krogstad and B) Why she would not come clean and tell her husband what she had done. I felt like the only character on the stage with any sense for most of the play was Mrs. Linde, but then was let down when at the end of the piece she decides to rekindle her romance with Krogstad, a man who seemed to gain pure pleasure out of making Nora’s life a living hell.
All doubts regarding the composition of the play, however, were stripped away upon witnessing the CFA’s recent production in the Theatrelab, directed by Lillian King. Seeing the show this past Monday night, I was fortunate enough to encounter a script I previously regarded as frustrating and confusing with a newfound clarity that was completely unexpected. From the first moment where Nora (a brilliant Shelby Hightower) leapt onto the stage with a force of energy that I had never imagined this character possessing in the past, I was enthralled with what was happening before my eyes. This energy only continued to grow, especially when Torvald (Ben Stanton) entered the playing space. I had previously imagined the relationship between the two characters to be a relatively boring one, with Torvald’s pet names for Nora getting old after the first page. However, the physical score between the two kept me interested not only in their relationship in the present moment, but also the various possibilities that it could grow into.
The rest of the ensemble rounded out the cast remarkably well. Cassie Gilling’s Mrs. Linde provided a beautiful picture of a woman whose practicalities wonderfully juxtapose those of Nora’s often ill-advised behavior. Jimmy Blackmon’s Dr. Rank gave me a newfound appreciation for his scene with Nora in which he all but confesses his love for her, as there was a tangible moment for me in which it was clear that their relationship would never be the same again. Will Madden brought a wonderful vitality to Krogstad, as it was clear that his interactions with Nora came not from any sort of evil intention, but rather a genuine desire to improve his life and family’s well-being. Molly Jones and Rebecca Brown each had lovely moments as the family’s live in nannies, with their respective obliviousness to the unfortunate situation that Nora has found herself in playing very well against the constant inner turmoil she experiences throughout the course of the piece.
The design of this piece was simply excellent. The subtleties of the lighting suggesting passage of time were beautiful, and the set, with a combination of minimalism and a stark attention to detail, provided the most interesting use of the Theatrelab space that I have ever seen. Overall, I loved this production. If you can make it to the show before it closes on Sunday afternoon, it is not an experience that you will soon forget.