Nora reinterprets a classic
by Jim Spencer & Shirley Lorraine
Back in 1879 Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen debuted his now classic domestic drama, A Doll’s House.
The story deals critically with the paternalistic attitudes and cultural restrictions imposed on married women in the 19th Century, who were treated like dolls rather than persons.
The central conflict involves the fallout from an incident where a Victorian era wife, Nora, forged her ailing father’s signature to borrow money for her husband’s ultimately successful medical treatment. Ever since she has been diligently repaying the loan – all facts unknown to her husband, Torvald.
Now, several years later when Torvald is stepping into a management position at the bank, the money lender threatens to, and ultimately does, reveal the illegal act to her husband. Torvald’s only concern is how his image may be damaged if it is known his toy wife committed a criminal act, regardless of the motive.
In 1981 famed Swedish film and theatrical director Ingmar Bergman penned Nora. The script reinterprets Ibsen’s original tale. It deletes now irrelevant details and characters, reduces the run time by over 50%, and spotlights and enhances the character of Nora as a person of savvy and depth.
It is Bergman’s script Nora that is now being presented at the Santa Paula Theater Center.
Presented with no intermission, the drama unfolds in the Torvald and Nora Helmer’s home in a variety of representative settings. The design is simple and effective. Period costuming provided by Barbara Pedziwiatr is well done. Minimalistic lighting gives the production just the right shaded overtones for the mood although, as nearly everyone is dressed in dark colors, perhaps a few more amps wouldn’t be amiss.
Jessica D. Stone holds her own as the initially naïve seeming Nora. As the play progresses, so does her character’s complexity. Contending with her moral dilemma, she ably leads the young wife from frothy to furious in under two hours.
Director Laurie Walters stages the additional characters waiting in chairs alongside the main set, melding into their scenes effortlessly. Additionally tasked to clear and reset the scenes, the actors are fully involved throughout.
Noah Crowe as the condescending husband Torvald maintains a staccato delivery that, especially during long passages, makes him seem more undecided than strong. His character would benefit, in our opinion, from straighter posture and more precise diction.
Additional depths to the plot are added by Maranda Mobley as Nora’s old friend and now Widow Christine Linde, Tyler McAuliffe as beleaguered Nils Krogstad, and Anthony Stetson as the smitten Doctor Rank, all of whom perform their parts with aplomb.
Nora provides ample fodder for discussions of the mindset of men in Victorian times, the progression of women’s liberation and ethics as it relates to actions taken in the name of love.
Nora is on the boards weekends at the Santa Paula Theater Center, 7th & Main Streets, Santa Paula until October 18, 2015. Times: Friday & Saturday – 8 p.m. Sunday – 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $18-$20. 525-4645 or www.santapaulatheatercenter.org.