Being a trophy wife and called cutesy things like “songbird,” “little lark” and “little squirrel” must be an awful drag.
Ask Nora Helmer (Gretchen Hall). Not only does her husband Torvald (Fred Arsenault) call her silly names like those above, but he doesn’t bother her pretty little head with serious talk of any kind. Consequently, despite eight years of marriage and three children, she really does feel like a doll, an inanimate object kept around the house for looks alone.
By now she even sounds like an empty-headed “little spendthrift,” having spent more than Torvald feels necessary on Christmas (even asking for the unromantic gift of cash for herself). But Torvald becomes the manager of a bank in the New Year (at a substantial raise), and Nora isn’t wasting any time.
Henrik Ibsen’s classic “A Doll’s House” plays through April 21 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Kirsten Brandt directs.
When old school chum Kristine Linde (Nisi Sturgis), now a poverty-stricken widow, comes to visit, Nora doesn’t hesitate to bend her ear about how rich and happy she soon will be.
But in her favor, Nora does come through when Kristine finally gets a word in: she needs a job, and is wondering whether Torvald might be able to use her in the bank. Nora assures her friend that she will get Torvald to hire her.
Enter Nils Krogstad (Richard Baird), a distasteful man who is about to be fired from the bank. He wants Nora’s help too, but he has a claim on her that Kristine doesn’t: he threatens to tell Torvald that she forged her father’s signature on a document in order to get the money to save Torvald’s life.
Torvald’s oldest friend Dr. Rank (Jack Koenig) visits daily, but he harbors a secret he doesn’t want Torvald to know.
In case (by some unlikely chance) you don’t know what happens, I’ll leave you to find out. Suffice it to say that none of these characters are quite what they seem, and when things don’t turn out the way Nora expects, she finally must make a serious decision.
Hall and Arsenault head a fine cast with sensitive portrayals of the spouses who barely know each other. Baird shows Krogstad to be more than just a villain even as Sturgis reveals Kristine to be a little less than friend.
Koenig is excellent as Dr. Rank, Amanda Naughton exactly right as Anne-Marie, the children’s nanny, and Katie Whalley is excellent as the timid maid Helene.
Alina Bokovikova’s costumes and David Lee Cuthbert’s lighting design add to the atmosphere.
Sean Fanning’s living-room set looks like it might be swallowed up in the next storm, and Paul Peterson’s ominous sound backdrop of huge waves crashing in the Norwegian Sea plays up that impression. We are left to ponder what might be lost.
“A Doll’s House” plays through April 21 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.
Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm.
Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.