A Doll, once again, comes off the shelf

Photo: Johan Persson Hattie Morahan as Ibsen’s beleaguered housewife in the Young Vic’s production of “A Doll’s House.”

Photo: Johan Persson
Hattie Morahan as Ibsen’s beleaguered housewife in the Young Vic’s production of “A Doll’s House.”

A Doll, once again, comes off the shelf Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” is currently running at BAM with a stellar cast and production team

Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sparsely populated Norway remains surprisingly mighty in artistic recognition, mostly due to the three Norwegian greats, i.e., artists embraced worldwide— Grieg, Munch, and Ibsen. Each has been recycled and reimagined many times over. Each has a shelf life of close to a century and a half, so far. And somehow they continue to have staying power in spite of changing mores and regardless of changing tastes. Ibsen is the Norwegian great, who once again is being performed at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) this month and next.

In 2011 Time Out New York wrote a wonderful article, “Thirty Years of Ibsen at BAM,” cataloguing 10 productions of Ibsen from their inception. From my count there have been two more since then. So, the upcoming production of “A Doll’s House” will make the 13th performance of Ibsen at BAM, unquestionable evidence of Ibsen’s potency. Some of the Ibsen plays performed here were directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1991, 1993 and 2003. Cast members have included such greats as Alan Rickman, Fiona Shaw, and Cate Blanchett. They even had a production inspired by “A Doll’s House,” titled, Nora, in which the prodigal mother returns to shoot her husband to death.

Groundbreaking when it opened in 1879—due to its protagonist, Nora, leaving hearth and home, including her child—it has continued to shock for generations. But is it still relevant today and worth seeing again? After a little research, I can emphatically say “Yes!” Why? Because this production has triple clout, boasting an extraordinary provenance, director, and leading lady.

As for provenance, this production comes to BAM from the Young Vik where it had two sold-out runs. The Young Vik’s productions are known for innovation and David Lan has served as their artistic director since 2000. On February 13, 2014, it was announced that Lan was named the consulting artistic director to assist in the creation of the World Trade Center’s new performing arts center, a great endorsement of his competency. He will be doing both jobs simultaneously, a great testament to his creative and physical stamina.

Second, though young in years, this production’s director, Carrie Cracknell has rich and extensive theater experience. Currently, she is the Associate Director of the Royal Court Theater. And prior to this, at the tender age of 26, she became the co-artistic director of The Gate Theater. In a recent NYTimes interview about the play, Cracknell states, “Nora’s ability to manipulate through her looks is still relevant today.” She is correct. One only has to look at a magazine rack in a local candy store to see that the sexualization of women remains front and center in our society.

The third reason to see this production is to watch Hattie Morahan, who stars in the lead, as Nora. She has wowed in extraordinary performances. The Sunday Telegraph (UK) writes, “If you ever see a production of the play, see this one… Hattie Morahan’s Nora strikes me as a one-in-a-lifetime performance.” This acclaim no doubt comes from Morahan’s intimate understanding of the text. She elaborates in a Playbill interview, published in Feb. 2014, “It’s sort of the most extraordinary play; I’ve never had that with a project. Every time you return to it, you sort of discover more. It’s such a rich creation.”

So, with such a stellar production, director and lead, how can one not purchase a ticket and grab a seat? A Doll’s House will run through March 16th. There was a special offering, a Friends of BAM Talk, on February 23rd at 12:30. Director Carrie Cracknell discussed “the contemporary resonance of Ibsen’s play and her short film Nora.” If you can’t make the performance and missed the talk, Cracknell, in collaboration with Nick Payne, has created a short film (a little over 8 minutes, minus the credits) entitled “Nora,” which can be accessed from the BAM website (www.bam.org/theater/2014/a-dollshouse) or on youtube.

The short film depicts the daily ritual, through actions rather than words, of what a working mother experiences in a single day. All of the morning multi-tasking and caring for others exhausts her, and when she finally reaches the office, she finds she has been torpedoed by a brown-nosing male colleague. Upon returning home, the mother sets her two children into a trampoline set in the garden. She zips the children into an encased netting, and then she goes inside to do more work. The children are caged in a soft cocoon, but a fragile one, as is she. Hubby later comes home and she is gone: purse, keys, and cell phone remain behind. Like butterflies caught in a fragile net he finds the children left behind and alone. It is chilling and I expect no less from the production of this play.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 28, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.