It's been almost 140-years since Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House. As I write this review, we are just a week away from the 139th anniversary of the play's premier at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark. My how time's have changed. Or have they?
I admit I was a bit perplexed when I learned that TheatreLab, Richmond's "home of unexpected and evocative performance" was producing a play more than a century old. Even more perplexed knowing that TheatreLab's 2018/2019 season is "In Pursuit of Happiness."
Controversial, sure, but there's not much happy about A Doll's House.
We all know what happens when we make assumptions. I was wrong, of course. Director Joshua Chenard convinced me that Ibsen's work is just as relevant today as it was all those years ago.
The plot could have been ripped from the #MeToo headlines.
Nora Helmer (Katrinah Carol Lewis) and her husband Torvald (Landon Nagel) have, by all appearances, an ideal marriage. Torvald is devoted, they have a child, and Nora is able to use her wiles to get anything she wants.
For a 19th-century woman, she had it all. But Nora is not a typical woman of her time. The more she realizes she is just a doll in her husband's house - something to show off, play with and dress up - the more she recognizes she is an actor playing a script that has been predestined for her. Her brave, dramatic choice - to walk away from her marriage and child - was hugely controversial when the play was originally performed.
And it is just as brave and dramatic in 2018 when women are still fighting for equality, are often still viewed as objects to be possessed, and where the decision to walk away from a marriage and children - something that is accepted when it's the man who does the leaving - is still controversial. The time's haven't changed as much as we think.
I loved everything about TheatreLab's production of A Doll's House.
The set was a facade of a set. The doors and walls and objects are depicted in black marker, as if to say - the dining room is *supposed* to be here, the plants *should* go right here, and the floor boards and ceilings *ought* to be ornamental.