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NY Theater Reviews

Ana Reeder and Tim Hopper/ Ph: T. Charles Erickson.

OUT OF PLACE, OUT OF TIME

By SANDY MACDONALD

Ibsen’s feminist rebel proves an anachronism in an era of easy credit. 

You can take A Doll’s House out of 19th-century Norway and try moving it to contemporary suburbia, but that doesn’t mean it’ll take.
 
Gordon Edelstein’s adaptation starts out feasible enough, but the necessary adjustments soon start to jar. First off, work-stress so rarely proves fatal these days; thus, Nora’s descent into debt to secure Torvald a rest cure lacks a certain urgency. (The intriguing possibility that her supposed heroism was a self-serving ego trip remains but gets lost in the shuffle.) Also, who keeps a lock on their home mailbox? And what’s with all the passing of notes and intercepting of guests, when a simple phone call is all it would take to spill the beans?
 
It’s not just the mechanics that are off, but the interpersonal dynamics. Ana Reeder makes for a matronly Nora, difficult to reconcile with the “child-queen” whom Torvold (a serviceable Adam Trese) likes to chide and fetishize. And Jessica Ford’s costuming does her no favors; the tarantella costume appears to have been borrowed from a burlesque biergarten.
 
Amid the ensemble, Mark Nelson shines as the moneylender Nils Krogstad. His body language is furtive and squirrelly, his voice tremulous with ill-tamped rage. This Nils, stewing with guilt and ambition, lives among us still, as does Linda Powell’s Christine, a worn-out workhorse doing her best to curry favor with a pampered former friend as a means to survival. Tim Hopper is touching as well, as the familial third wheel Dr. Rank, kept in orbit by an undeclarable attraction.
 
It’s a marvelous play, with plenty left to tell us in its original setting. Nora stomping out in running shoes to a rock refrain (having showily shed her credit cards) somehow lacks the poignancy of a sheltered, hobbled child-wife confronting a much less hospitable world.