Playing Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre, Austin Pendleton directs Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of 'A Doll's House' by Henrik Ibsen in its English-language premiere. More…
Ingmar Bergman's 'Nora,' a distillation of Ibsen's masterpiece, is a riveting tale of a seemingly conventional woman, struggling and then coming to terms with her life as a doll-wife in a traditional marriage. Out of the shadows of deceit, blackmail, and betrayal, Nora rises to a new consciousness of herself as a woman in a man's world. Through the microcosm of Nora's "doll house" marriage, both Bergman and Ibsen pose crucial questions about the role of gender in modern society.
"By refining and stylizing some elements of Bergman’s adaption and elucidating the character portrayals with thrilling authenticity, the director and actors have heightened the essence of Ibsen’s themes and brought them into stark relief against the backdrop of our current culture. Indeed, the result is that 'Nora’s' last scenes are especially powerful, allowing the last line of the play to be the exclamation point that resonates with memorable force." Full Review
"'Nora' is the stunning and highly successful distillation of one of the theatre’s timeless classics…Under Mr. Pendleton’s taut direction, each member of the ensemble cast portrays his or her character with a sense of honesty and authenticity. Both Ms. Lichty’s Nora and Mr. Gearhart’s Torvald could be stronger...'Nora' is a definite must see for those endeared to the classic and for all of those looking for rich theatre that asks enduring questions about gender, self-discovery, and empowerment." Full Review
"It’s a risky thing, in theater, to take a fundamental aspect of a play and change it significantly. If the ploy fails, then the rest of the production’s strengths are entirely overlooked. And if it succeeds, it rarely tips the play favorably relative to the risk. But occasionally, it provides a twist that allows us to see a familiar piece in an entirely different light. Such is the case with 'Nora'...It’s a delightful production." Full Review
"With the dialogue of Bergman and Ibsenʼs plot a performer might, understandably, overcompensate with excess of expression. This was not the case with the cast of 'Nora.' The dignity, certainty, and craft of performance was trusted to bolster any aspect of entertainment, and this faith is earnestly rewarded...Itʼs difficult to say whether 'Nora' is a necessary achievement in a downtown space, but itʼs a definitely an achievement." Full Review
"While there are no real changes, other than the slimmer plot, by the time the play reaches its finale one almost sighs with relief realizing all of the characters survived. Exceptionally acted, 'Nora' sets out to explore if people with no cares in the world have indeed achieved ultimate happiness." Full Review
"While a few over-acted moments early in the play briefly broke Pendleton’s spell, for the most part the cast works well with his vision and were a joy to watch...It’s wonderful to see this English translation of 'Nora' in NYC for the first time, in order to experience the thrill of Ibsen’s play reborn. And watching the Cherry Lane’s production, a tasteful homage to Ibsen’s original with a modern lens, feels like catching up with an old, dear friend." Full Review
"Bergman's anti-realistic, cinematically fluid script liberates Ibsen's play from its sociological trappings, enhancing its accessibility to audiences…The result feels up-to-date but, at least in the present production, there's a uniformity of tone throughout that becomes monotonous…Pendleton has assembled an admirable cast…Of special note is veteran character-actor George Morfogen as Dr. Rank...Brief as it is, Morfogen's performance is what most makes the production worth seeing." Full Review
"Pendleton’s staging turns the piece into a genuinely eerie domestic tragedy…It’s a recipe for a galvanizing revisitation, but the reality is that 'Nora' only occasionally sparks to life because of a curiously idiosyncratic performance form Jean Lichty in the title role…'Nora' ends with its heroine making a shocking decision, and though Pendleton’s production sends theatergoers on a speedy and intriguing collision course to it, it’s an uneven and never completely satisfying journey." Full Review
“'A Doll’s House' has 11 characters and ran nearly three hours. 'Nora' has just five characters and, in the Cherry Lane production, lasts about half as long. This seems better suited to the casual contemporary theatergoer...Of course, streamlining the cast puts more pressure on the remaining performers. All are fine in this production; none are consistently thrilling...It says something that, of the 15 scenes in 'Nora,' only two stand out." Full Review
"To see 'Nora' staged is a treat, even in an imperfect production, such as this one...The show feels rough, like a sculpture still partially trapped in its stone—we can see generally what it’s supposed to look like and some elements are more finished than others, but much of the fine work necessary to bring vivid life to the thing is unfinished...'Nora' boasts many good directorial ideas. Yet most of these are either incomplete or insufficiently realized." Full Review
"Nora's announcement that she’s going to leave Torvald comes out of the blue; her final moment before this scene shows her complacently allowing her husband to unbutton her dress, as, prior to making love, she says, without apparent irony, 'And I thank you for your forgiveness.' Ms. Lichty and Pendleton should have found earlier ways to hint at what was coming." Full Review
"'Nora' is little more than a cut-down version of Ibsen's script that eliminates its minor characters...'Nora' also removes much of the connective tissue between scenes...None of this would matter if the cast and their director were playing 'Nora' for keeps, but the version that emerges at the Cherry Lane is strangely underfelt. In any case, for once, I didn't wonder what would happen to Nora when she walked out the door; for the first time ever, I wasn't sure I cared." Full Review
"Bergman’s paring down of Ibsen’s compelling play with its early feminist theme sticks to the plot but gives us fewer ways to know the characters. It puts major, inner change on fast forward — making for an unconvincing drama. In trimming down the play, Bergman omits the servants and the three children...There’s no sense of a functioning household, although the nature of this doll’s house – and doll’s household — is of central importance." Full Review
"Detached from Bergman’s own directorial control and talent, do these texts have any value on their own? On the basis of this 'Nora,' the answer is most likely no...This production falls apart in its final stretch...'Doll’s House' is still a play that can speak to audiences...But it might be that it needs the full force of what Ibsen himself wrote rather than the stripped-down essence that only Bergman himself could make fully alive in the theater." Full Review
"The problem with the elimination of the intermissions is that the story seems to take place too fast. The sense of time is gone, so that everything seems to take place in one night...Pendleton has made some strange directorial choices...The unpersuasive acting and staging have not given this new text its best shot. The director’s singular choices appear to have had a great effect on the final outcome of this production." Full Review
"These are characters so familiar that we have opinions about them before the play even starts, and it’s illuminating to see them afresh. One of the beauties of theater, of course, is that many interpretations are possible — but there must be an interpretation, and Ms. Lichty doesn’t appear to have one for the title character...Without a solid, believable Nora, the play loses its meaning, and the ending has no weight at all." Full Review
"Confusion about age is just one of many puzzlements plaguing this intimate, read low-budget, production...You may find yourself grateful for every minute saved, so grating is Lichty's performance in the title role...Supporting actors Andrea Cirie and Larry Bull lend depth and authenticity to a slapped-together show that bears all the earmarks of a vanity production for its star...Her Nora is a flagrant phony and poseur from the get-go, flagging only toward the end." Full Review
"'Nora' misses by a long shot…Ms. Lichty does not succeed as the captain of this ship. Her performance is without substance and she almost appears to have something else on her mind...As Torvald, Todd Gearhart does not fare much better...Pendleton’s’ direction, normally spot on, seems to flag here, which is disappointing. There is such a general pall cast over this production one assumes that a good deal of the responsibility rests the Mr. Pendleton." Full Review
See it if you want to feel like you are back in time seeing a play or are obsessed with A Doll's House and want to know more about Nora.
Don't see it if you are expecting a stimulating performance.
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