Peyton Place, Ibsen style


By Henrik Ibsen
Directed by Ralph Moniz
The Yahoo Escadrille Theatre Company
Raw Space
529 W. 42nd St.
Equity showcase (closesApr. 8) 841-0137
Review by Sheila Mart

Rosmersholm, like so much of Henrik Ibsen's work, provides a dramatic introspection into human nature that inevitably stirs up conflicts among his characters. The issues of religion, morality, and freedom are all analyzed in depth, and are spearheaded by a free-thinking, somewhat liberated woman (a feminist ahead of her time) as the lead character.

Set at an old manor house bordering a small town in Norway in the late 1800s, Rosmersholm opens on a housekeeper, Mrs. Helseth (Suzan Perry), attending to the mistress of the house, Rebecca West (Kathrin Kana). The two discuss household matters but eventually move on to speak of the suicide of the previous mistress of the house, Bianta, wife of John Rosmer (Robert Meksin). Rosmer was the former pastor of the local church, who has now devoted himself solely to historical studies. Soon Dr. Kroll (Stephen Innocenzi), a highly respected headmaster at the local preparatory school, arrives. Although Kroll is a longtime friend of Rosmer, he nevertheless reflects the sentiments of the local population when he voices displeasure at the fact that West and Rosmer are living together in the same house but remain unmarried. Also entering into the fray is Peter Mortgensaard (Peter Brase), the muckraking owner of the town newspaper. The last character to encroach is Ulrik Brendel (Thomas G. Reitz), an old mentor of Rosmer. Despite his erudite and expressive use of language, Brendel is a failed writer, whose best creations remain in his head rather than on the printed page.

Throughout the beginning of the play, West remains stoic and apparently devoted to the needs of Rosmer, while subtly manipulating him and Kroll. It is not until the end of the second act that various facts about West's background and how she came to live at Rosmersholm begin to emerge. This is a complex lady, whose intense ambition often overrides her professed loyalties. By the end of the play, she has arrived at an emotional and difficult decision without compromising her beliefs.

Such a beautifully written and multi-faceted play received a commendable production by the Yahoo Escadrille Theatre Company, though not without a few late entrances and problematical scene changes. For the most part, Ralph Moniz's direction (using a translation by Rolf Fjelde) was sensitive, though at times slowly paced. As for the performances, Innocenzi, Meksin, and Reitz were all perfect. Perry was more of a maid than the perceptive housekeeper written by Ibsen. Brase was effective, but somewhat shallow. Kana, in a most challenging role, understood her character, but her technique got in the way of the emotions.

Suzan Perry's period costumes were imaginative and authentic except for Mortensgaard, who appeared to be wearing a 1920s suit. Alban Sardzinski's lighting credibly expressed a more genteel age, while the set (unaccredited), with its lushly upholstered couches, chairs and decorated small tables, indicated an era of elegance.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 2
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Sheila Mart