The Master Builder REBUILT, Victoria Pero's adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen warhorse The Master Builder, was smashing good theater on every level. Pero's brilliantly reductive adaptation captured the main themes of Ibsen's drama with razor-sharp acuity, and her direction was equally as focused, beautifully polished, and dazzling in its intelligently creative simplicity.
The performances were all outstanding, chief among them Okwui Okpokwasily as an intriguingly self-confident Hilde; Chris Clavelli as the guilt-ridden architect Solness, the eponymous Master Builder; and Hillary Spector in a revelatory performance as Aline, the architect's wife. Spector's performance was a mini-masterpiece of tiny little moments of still emotion that built almost imperceptibly into a tour de force of controlled emotional devastation. Also turning in delightful interpretations were Grant Neale and Emera Felice Kraus as Solness's overworked assistants.
As is Pero's wont, the physical production was as gorgeous as the emotional one. The jigsaw-puzzle set, in creamy wood tones set off by turquoise walls, was enhanced by the flowing period-ish costumes in cream, brown and black, while the stark white light bathed the whole show in the warm but unsparing glow of the land of the midnight sun. (Sets, costumes, and lighting by Grant Neale, Amy Ritchings, and Ben Stanton, respectively.)
All in all, a terrific achievement: the meat of Ibsen without the preachiness and endless exposition that mar typical translations. If anything, The Master Builder REBUILT, coming in at just over an hour, could have been a little longer. When theater is that good, it seems a shame for it to be over so quickly.
(Also featuring David Cho, Sheryl Dagostino, Victoria Gallucci, Catherine Jhung, Amy E. Matthews, Breton Nicholson, Ric Sechrest.)
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Copyright 2004 Doug DeVita