“ONE CANNOT HIDE FROM THE TRUTH.”
A concise and economical adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen’s ”A Doll’s House” opened Wednesday at Writers Theatre, the product of a collaboration between Writers’ artistic director Michael Halberstam and the multi-talented Sandra Delgado. Bundled within the intimate confines of the Gillian Theatre on a well appointed Arnel Sancianco set that uses every facet of the space-in-the-round, and with actors adorned in magnificent period costumes by Izumi Inaba, the one-act 90-minute production provides the perfect opportunity to revel in Ibsen’s classic without sacrificing the complex, interwoven nature of the character development.
There are pitfalls to consider, particularly in the relationship between Nora Helmer (Cher Álvarez) and her husband, Torvald (Greg Matthew Anderson). As Nora’s cloistered existence is about to implode, Torvald’s lofty, pragmatic lifestyle is ripe for retribution. Establishing the seriously patronizing relationship between them, and then unravelling the deeper plot points that lead to Nora’s righteous liberation, is only one of the many challenges of the various subplots involving minor characters. It is all handled deftly in the adaptation and in director Lavina Jadhwani’s staging, which never allows us to linger too long on one aspect or another.
If you have never seen a production of “A Doll’s House,” the celebrated story of a 19th-century woman of means whose father and then her husband have emotionally bound her in a world of suppressed equality, it is captivating. Nora’s unconditional love for Torvald and her willingness to partner with the corrupt Krogstad (a cunning Adam Poss) create a desperate double jeopardy that has no rational outcome.
Álvarez’s Nora is deviously demure in her quest to fashion a perfect life, even though she holds her children at arm’s length and maintains a facade of acceptance while scheming to steer the course of her plan to a happier ending. The perfectness of her existence ultimately will drive her from a loveless marriage to an uncertain future. Anderson delivers a tightly wired Torvald who you feel at any moment will become unhinged, a state that leads Nora to delay the inevitable confrontation and ultimately accept the reality that “one cannot hide from the truth.”
The fine supporting cast includes nice work by Bradley Grant Smith (Dr. Rank) and Amy J. Carle (Anne Marie), as well as a beautiful turn by Tiffany Renee Johnson as the family friend, Christine.
In the end, Nora’s transformation from captive to free spirit is complete. Whether that transformation will change our perception about the dynamics of love and loss in the here-and-now will be the question you ponder on the way home. In retrospect, while Nora’s intentions may be virtuous, they appear unorthodox to everyone around her. And when her make-believe world finally comes crashing down and she is left with “nothing at all… not even grief,” the only option that remains is change.
A DOLL’S HOUSE
through December 15, 2019
325 Tudor Court
For more reviews, visit: Theatre In Chicago