Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE, the classic revived periodically that puts a microscope on patriarchy, unfolds on Raven’s little-depth double wide stage without much stagecraft frill. It’s an expansive parlor, with settees and small lace doily adorned tables. (Scenic Artist: Eileen Rozycki)
Here we meet Nora (Amira Danan), the doll of this house, and her father’s house before, now nicknamed songbird by her husband Torvald (Gage Wallace). Torvald also refers to Nora, with no shortage of creepy, as his most treasured possession.
Amira Danan’s Nora seems to be ever wearing a figurative sandwich board sign detailing the etymology of the word hysteria, a disease thought of emanating from the uterus. Her life is one evolving scheme to get things big and small— from sweets hidden from her controlling husband, to celebrations of Christmas the family was unable to take in harder times, to landing a job for her old chum Mrs. Linde (Shadana Patterson). Most importantly, the plot driver is Nora’s frenzied attempts to avoid her husband’s reaction and the scandal that will inevitably result, if and when her illegal forgery to land a loan becomes known. Every emotion Danan’s Nora shows is always colored with this hysteria undertone or overtone as the plot thickens, until the denouement. This new Nora we meet near play’s end is steely eyed. In an instant, we forget the old Nora of hidden eye rolls at her husband’s strict rules and mindset. In this reviewer’s opinion, Danan’s performance is a standout, and especially for those of us who saw her in Windy City’s Southern Gothic, these two contrasting roles being quite a testament to her artistic range.
Gage Wallace’s Torvald, similarly, in this writer’s view, brings to life the foil to Nora that one imagines Ibsen had in mind. You too may find yourself in need of an emesis basin as he coats his controlling dictums to Nora with cloying endearments.
Raven Theatre Stages Classic in Repertoire of Feminist Debates
These tour de force performances duly noted, and with a supporting cast on par, the curious aspect of this play and production may be how little it feels to speak to the zeitgeist of our day. Though set in 1870’s Norway, it’s no wonder that this play had a memorable Broadway revival just as the fledgling women’s movement was turning divorce laws and gender role expectations on their head in the 1970’s. Circa now, a half century later, and with the mores of today’s Fundamentalist families notwithstanding, you too may experience this play more as an exercise in classical theater than the marker in feminist debates it had played in the past. That’s a plus perhaps, giving those of us who love more serious theater, the same night out of escapism that a fun-filled musical might be expected to deliver.
Regular Chicago theater-goers might also experience this production as another chance to relish memories of Hnath’s Doll House 2 performed by Steppenwolf last year. That play, more a discussion perhaps of What do spouses want? than a rehash of Freud’s lament What do Women Want, might also hang in the air for you, giving Ibsen’s Torvald a bit more depth ,and allowing us to smile when we think of what nursemaid Anne- Marie (Kelli Walker) really thinks.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
Title: A DOLL’S HOUSE
Written by Henrik Ibsen
Translation by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey
Adaptation by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey and Kirsten Brandt
Directed by Lauren Shouse
Amira Danan (Nora), Mike Dailey (Dr. Rank), Carmen Liao (Helene), Shadana Patterson (Mrs. Linde), Nelson Rodriguez (Krogstad), Kelli Walker (Anne-Marie) and Gage Wallace (Helmer).
Jacqueline Penrod (scenic design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Eric Backus (original music and composition), Caitlin McCarthy (props design), Ariel Etana Triunfo (choreographer), Skylar Grieco (assistant director), Lynn Baber (casting director), Cole von Glahn (artistic producer), Bek Lambrecht (technical director), Liz Gomez (master electrician), Ian Liberman (wardrobe supervisor), Eileen Rozycki (scenic artist), Wilhelm Peters (stage manager) and Julia Toney (assistant stage manager).
Through March 22, 2020
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Sundays at 3 pm
Raven Theatre’s East Stage
6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville)