The shoulders of giants


By Henrik Ibsen
Directed J.C. Compton
The Century Center
111 East 15th Street (982-6782)
Equity Showcase (closes Mar. 11)
Review by Ken Jaworowski

The Century Center cast and crew didn't just perform Ibsen's Rosmersholm -- they inhabited it. With an attention to detail evidenced in everything from the lush set to the handsome costumes to the first-rate acting, they had the audience eavesdropping on a household rather than simply viewing a play.

In Rosmersholm, John Rosmer secludes himself in his ancestral estate after the suicide of his wife. He gives up his religious faith and explores more progressive, liberal ideas while being watched over by Rebecca West, who had come to the estate to care for the ailing Mrs. Rosmer. Rector Kroll arrives seeking John's help in a conservative cause, and when denied aid, sets in motion a series of revelations that expose the hidden secrets behind Rebecca's motives and Mrs. Rosmer's death.

More psychological and ambiguous than An Enemy of the People or A Doll's House, Rosmersholm is less judgmental than other popular Ibsen plays. Granted, Ibsen's favorite themes -- the destructive power of the truth, the hypocrisy of both the left and the right -- are never absent. Yet Rosmersholm is a personal rather than a societal play; indeed, it was a favorite of Freud, who sometimes used the story to illustrate psychoanalytic theory.

Kelly Overton, making her New York stage debut as Rebecca, gave a performance that left little doubt she'll find success here. To witness her fusion of joy and anguish when John declares his love for her, or to watch her hands when she describes the storms that are analogous to her feelings, is to see a young actress with a future as well as a firm grasp of the present. As Rosmer, Dean Harrison held confident control over a man both hopeful and fearful of the future. Tamara Daniel, David Jones, and Bruce Edward Barton were expert in supporting roles, with Daniel in particular bringing a hint of gothic bleakness to the house. Only William Broderick, as Rector Kroll, needed time to secure his character; yet after the first scene, when Kroll turns menacing, Broderick wholly captured the part.

Despite some clunky exposition that crept into the otherwise fine Rolf Fjelde translation, J.C. Compton's direction succeeded by demanding practiced timing in both action and word. Yet the two hours in Century's ballroom theater never felt rushed; the play's delicious pauses had time to speak volumes (though, lamentably, the silences were sometimes tarnished by the rustling of pages and whispering from the balcony soundbooth).

Rosmersholm is one of Ibsen's lesser-known works, but the Century Center treated the play with a care and respect that showed profound regard. Without question, there was pride in everything they did. As a result, they have a lot to be proud of.
Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2001 Ken Jaworowski