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Truth and Lies in Village Playhouse's Fast-Moving 'Doll's House'

Mar. 28, 2017
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adollshouse
Dress rehearsal for "A Doll's House"

The Village Playhouse of Wauwatosa includes this production of A Doll’s House, directed by Deanna Strasse, as part of its “Season of Women.” Set in the second half of the 19th century, the play explores issues of family life, gender expectations and truth that reach today’s audience with continued relevance. Producer Derek Jacobs notes in the program that the show “is able to transcend time” and the language of this stage adaptation by Frank McGuinness feels both modern and brief, holding the attention of the audience for a swift two-hour performance. 

Henrik Ibsen’s classic play details three days in the life of Nora Helmer, a young wife and mother who has spent years perfecting the image of herself as a domestic ideal. When a friend from her past arrives at the Helmer home on Christmas eve, describing the years of hard work she has endured, Nora feels compelled to share a secret: While her life appears frivolous, she has been hiding a piece of business from her husband Torvald which she believes would forever alter the happy appearance of their marriage. Events unfold which proceed to change Nora’s opinion of what she considers honesty.

The relationship displayed between Nora (played by Melody Lopac) and Torvald (David Dawursk) vacillates between saccharine sweet and sickeningly cruel. Torvald is fond of referring to Nora by a variety of pet names, yet it is Nora who aptly describes herself as the doll presiding over the cast of characters in their facade of a home. 

The production struggles to achieve a sense of realism through costumes that step outside the time period and props that the actors appear uncomfortable using; this is a story about the falsehood of appearances, and the swift translation allows the actors to move quickly through these moments. 

Nora’s journey over the course of the play fluctuates and her self-awareness wavers. The final scene famously ends with a door being closed; Lopac’s choice in this final moment brings a clarity to her character that draws the play to a definitive and substantial conclusion.

Through April 9 at Inspiration Studios, 1500 S. 73rd St. For tickets, call 414-207-4879 or visit villageplayhouse.org.

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