Escape velocity


By Ingmar Bergman (reinterpretation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House)
Directed by Pamela Moller Kareman
Arclight Theater
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Nora is a reinterpretation of Ibsen’s classic play, A Doll’s House. It pares down the show and focuses solely on Nora’s journey from contented housewife, to determined self-discovery. Arclight Theater presented a brisk, intense production, giving the play its full impact.

A Doll’s House, and consequently Nora, follows the marriage of Nora and Torvald. Through exposition, the back story is revealed -- Torvald was sickly and needed a year in Italy to recover. Nora, being the good wife, went behind Torvald’s back to borrow money for the trip from the unscrupulous Krogstad, whom Torvald decides to sack when he gains a promotion. Krogstad attempts to blackmail Nora because not only is it amoral for a woman to borrow money; he figures out that she forged her father’s signature on the guarantor part of the loan, which is illegal.

When the truth comes out, Torvald gets into a fit of anger and disowns Nora, mourning the fact that he now has to do whatever Krogstad wishes because of her mistake. However, Nora’s friend, Christine, talks to Krogstad, who turns out to be her long lost love, and he agrees to tear up the promissory note. Torvald is very relieved and contented to go back to life as normal. However, Nora’s eyes have been opened. She realizes that she’s like a doll to him – a pretty doll who performs tricks – that they were not partners because a true husband would have taken the blame and defended his wife’s honor. She decides she needs to stop being a doll and learn who she really is and what life can really offer.

Bergman’s script is very focused on Nora, which does wonders to the original three-hour play. The play is concise and succinct this way, and the action never lets up. Thus, the audience feels totally engrossed by the main story without getting distracted by the superfluous subplots.

All five actors worked well as an ensemble. The standout was Carey Macaleer as Nora. She was ebulliently vivacious; her journey from sweet innocent to awakened adventurer was very clear and nuanced, and her line readings felt genuine.

Director Pamela Moller Kareman kept the show moving at a brisk pace. Having all four characters sit on stage worked very well. It kept everyone concentrated on Nora. Furthermore, the staging made great use of the intimate space, and the pace and energy were consistently strong.

The space was also helped by Joseph J. Egan’s charming set, which consisted of white trees surrounding the living room where most of the play’s action took place. Furthermore, snow was strewn around the furniture, which added a really effective touch. Kimberly Matela’s costumes were aptly period. David Pentz’s lighting design provided different playing areas and intensity levels agreeably. Finally, the incidental computer music by Matt Stine created and punctuated the scenes very nicely, using many high-pitched, breathy timbres to heighten the play’s tension.

Overall, Nora is finely focused on Nora’s epiphany. Arclight Theater’s production was finely focused, as well, making for an intense, enjoyable evening of theatre.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2006 Seth Bisen-Hersh