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Lights of Broadway: A Doll's House (2023)




Synopsis: Nora Helmer, a childlike wife and mother accustomed to an existence built around her husband Torvald, comes to confront the truth of her marriage, in Henrik Ibsen's groundbreaking 1879 play.


Review:

The door slams heard around the world is back on Broadway in this cutting-edge revival of A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Amy Herzog into a one-act play. Though adapted, the story is still the same. Nora (played by Academy Award Winner Jessica Chastain) takes out a bad loan and forges her father's signature during a time when women were not allowed to own money/property/loans/etc. Her husband Torvald (played by Arian Moayed) is hired at the same bank as the loan shark Krogstad (played by Okieriete Onaodowan) who then blackmails Nora in an attempt to keep his job.


This untraditional production chooses to portray A Doll’s House as a stripped-down bare-bones version. There are no costumes, just dress blacks designed by Soutra Gilmour. There is no set, just 5 chairs placed as needed around the stage accompanied by 2 turntables and lights lowering and raising as needed to give off the effect of the housing caving in around Nora as she tries to maintain her lie. This blank stage is lit by lighting designer Jon Clark to give a spectacular depth to what is a completely blank canvas.


With no set, no props, and no costumes, what is left? 100 minutes of breathtaking acting and storytelling over 100 minutes. Director Jamie Lloyd uses his actors on stage to great effect. Jessica Chastain gives a star-turning performance as Nora, captivating the audience and daring them to take their eyes off of her. Opposite her is Arian Moayed who is equally as captivating, gaslighting the audience into thinking he’s more than he is and revelling in the evil once the plot turns. Each member of the cast gave phenomenal performances that just felt like they were circling these two performances which did not let up for a second.


The most important moment the director had to solve for a barren stage is how do I do the infamous door slam at the end. Mr. Lloyd utilizes the loading dock door to have Nora quite figuratively walk out of the past and into the future of modern feminism with this singular moment, which will easily go down as one of the greatest directorial choices on the stage.

I cannot heap enough praise on this show. Its usage of the barren stage could have hindered it and left the audience feeling shorted, but the acting is some of the finest the Broadway stage has experienced in many years. This performance is innovative and fresh despite the source material being 140+ years old.


This specific revival of A Doll’s House earns itself a 5 out of 5 stars.



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