Thursday, January 3, 2019

Review: A Doll's House

A Doll's House A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first read for the Books and Chocolate (blog) Back to the Classics challenge - a play, to fulfill this item:
12. Classic Play. Any play written or performed at least 50 years ago. Plays are eligible for this category only.

The play premiered in Copenhagen in 1879. Ibsen was asked to write an additional ending for German audiences, one that ends more wretchedly and punishing for the woman.

The play is set in a small Norwegian town in 1879, and takes place entirely inside a house. Technically the translation into English of the title is "A Doll House," but this is often altered for English-speakers to A Doll's House. Nora is the wife and mother at the center of the story, seen as frivolous and needing direction by her father. She hasn't told him about money she's spent and borrowed (for his health care!) and it's about to unravel.

Can I spoil the ending of a classic play? It's important that the character of Nora makes decisions for herself at the end after suffering an entire life as a "doll" for her father and then her husband. It's interesting that this is written not long before feminist texts like The Yellow Wallpaper come on the scene in America, although the play itself was not performed in the states until after that time. All relatively of the same era though, confronting the tension between old roles and new.

Ibsen portrays the husband as completely bewildered when his wife starts charting her own path. He is a bit bumbling and out of sorts in the end. It is interesting that a male playwright could capture that so well. After an obstacle is cleared, he turns to her and says
"Now we're thrown back on each other completely... My darling wife, how can I hold you close enough?"
If you are female you are probably groaning the way the audience did. His controlling endearment is capture exactly right, and in many ways is a bit timeless.

I listened to the LA Theatre Works version of A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen, in English of course. Calista Flockhart plays Nora and actors whose voices sound like more famous actors play the other roles (I could have sworn her husband is played by Kyle MacLachlan, but nope!) They do a nice job and you can hear responses from the audience, making the listening experience one notch above reading the text, but not as good as seeing it in person of course.

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