By Tulis McCall
Farklempt. I think that is what I am. Looking for other words because my brain is chock-a-block full. This production of A Doll’s House, directed by Jamie Lloyd knocked me over.
If I could attend this play again I would ask for seats in the Dress Circle so that I could see all the stage revolves. In this production there are a bazillion. There is the main revolve on which Jessica Chastain (Nora) is revolving when the house opens. There is one outside that for characters to ride as they move into out of Nora’s life or sphere of reference. There are several others inside the main revolve where life twirls in bits and pieces. I think. From my seat in the orchestra I cannot be certain. Upon reflection, I believe that uncertainty may be one of the many messages of this production.
Know from the start that the only set IS the collection of revolves, and props consist of six wooden chairs that look uncomfortable in the extreme.
If you are looking for a period piece complete with frock coats and bustles – this would not be that.
In this production, Nora’s entrapment is literal. Chastain never leaves her chair until, well, you know. The fascinating part of this is that you don’t realize it until about halfway in, because everyone else is moving – gliding – into and out of the picture. Soome bring good new. Some not so good. Some bring trouble. The center of this Universe is Nora. And she is no perfect person. Nora is living a life that is self referential in every way. She is her own doll in her own doll house. Her sphere of reference ends centimeters beyond the tip of her nose, so in order to get through to her you have to be close up and personal and figure out how to get and hold her attention.
This is what Nils Krogstad does (Okieriete Onaodowan) sitting upstage of Chastain with his back to us, leaving us to realize the situation through her visible expression only. Quite a duet that requires skill and precision on both actors’ parts. It is in this scene that we first comprehend the world that is closing in on Nora. She pushes it away like a petulant child, but once out of the bottle, this mean genie is going nowhere.
Like strands on a beaded dress we watch the past trickle in and begin to swallow Nora up. One loan to save her husband’s life sticks to the bottom of her shoe and undermines all her relationships. Even with the people who love her without reservation – like Dr. Rank (Michael Patrick Thornton gives an astonishing performance).As the play progresses and the revolves pull and push, it becomes difficult for all of us to breath. I think this is was Ibsen had in mind. Who are any of us without a little denial? And denial in one person is contagious. Before you can point an accusatory finger at your foe, you notice the three other fingers circling around and pointing back at you.
When Nora finally stands up on her own two feet, when she gives the final final, it feels as if we have all ben given permission to breathe, and, if we choose, permission to walk out into the world by her side.
Still – I couldn’t h help shake the logistics – If my butt was sore after sitting in my cushy seat for 1 hour and 50 minutes with no intermission – how did Ms. Chastain fare after sitting for the same amount of time in that awkward little piece of furniture? Just sayin’.
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen here presented in a new version by Amy Herzog, Directed by Jamie Lloyd
WITH Jessica Chastain, Jesmille Darbouze, Tasha Lawrence, Arian Moayed, Okieriete Onaodowan, and Michael Patrick Thornton
Scenic and Co-Costume Design Soutra Gilmour, C- Costume Design Enver Chakartash, Lighting Design Jon Clark, Sound Design Ben and Max Ringham, Music by Ruichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto
At the Hudson Theatre throug June 10. TICKETS