Updated: Mar 8, 2019
Photos taken by Kris M. Mayeshiro/ km2creative
★★★½☆ - Satisfying
Henrik Ibsen’s drama, “A Doll’s House,” was published and performed in the late 1880s. With the fight for women’s equality still raging today, the election of so many women to legislatures around the country brings the play’s ideals front and center.
The original sparked much controversy and adaptations abound (even a radio version). Using a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund, Frank McGuinness’ 1997 adaptation sticks closely to the original and won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
This LVLT production, directed by Jane Walsh, is stylized. It takes on a Dickensian London atmosphere introducing the characters delivering gifts. Actors greet with hugs and kisses, or foul expressions depending upon the relationships yet to play out; dialogue is mouthed, while the children are busy with a period hand-clapping game. Once the gifts (children’s blocks) have been placed on a bookshelf, everyone exits, and the actual play begins.
As Nora, Olivia Hernando flits and twirls and dances around the stage, delivering a laughing, silly, naïve Scarlett O’Hara-type damsel. She’s never in one place for long and very self-absorbed. Hernando retains that even as her transgression(s) are revealed. Only when she’s faced with complete destruction do we see any convincing conflict. The change from woe-is-me to self-determination happens in a sudden realization rather than slowly deriving from a discussion with a family friend. Hernando further muddies the waters as the only actor to deliver dialogue in very precise, stilted enunciation.
Her husband, Torvald, is played effectively by Shane Cullum as he first coddles, then slowly becomes concerned for Nora’s mental welfare as she has trouble with a dance he taught her years before. His hands, then body shakes as he reads of her crimes and realizes what they will do to the family. Subsequently, reading a letter absolving her, Cullum again takes his time in the realization; thought processes expressed slowly as things sink in and his excitement and relief mount.
Marni Montgomery-Blake delivers a steady performance as Kristine Linde, Nora’s childhood friend. Her displeasure with Nora’s selfishness is displayed behind softly delivered words, and she moves with the confidence of a woman who has faced her own difficulties in life and come to terms with needing to provide for herself as well as a desire to care for others.
The villain of the piece comes in the form of one Niles Krogstad, played with finesse by David Ament. He’s subtle when he needs to be and overtly threatening when that ploy doesn’t work except when Krogstad turns his back in a position of weakness.
Like Hernando, Steve Webster plays his character (Dr. Rank) very stylized. His delivery at first is very sing-song in a beautiful tenor, later meshing with the remainder of the cast in a more realistic portrayal.
The nanny (Martha Bowers) and two children (Jack Davison and Lila P. Fisher) round out the cast. The kids are adorable – as kids should be – and their performances are convincing. Bowers has trouble meshing words with physicality, though, when she reveals a troubled background.
Stephanie Daniels has provided beautiful period costumes. She’s given the men silk cravats, a delightful party gown for Nora, and even Rank dons a colorful vest. Raphael Daniels-Devost lights the small stage well. The only thing which sticks out is the bright light shining through the fourth wall window; it comes up and dims out as if days pass within seconds.
The lovely, simple set by Chris Davies evokes the time period and the proper station of a family on the lower rungs of upward mobility.
When taking liberties in stylizing a classic such as this, it would seem permissible when dealing with onstage smoking. The lighting of a cigar would be best left out completely, rather than so unconvincingly mimed.
Though direction muddies at times, Walsh brings it all round full-circle with the curtain call as actors carry on the blocks (which slowly left), to be replaced on the shelf.
Though the play is 131-years old, it’s timely, rapidly selling out as the 2017 sequel “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” written by Lucas Hnath, will be presented as part of the Mainstage series May 3-19.
What: A Doll’s House
When: 8 p.m. Thursday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday through February 24
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets: $14 - $16 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director: Jane Walsh; Set Design: Chris Davies; Lighting Design: Raphael Daniels-Devost; Sound Design: Joey Jevne; Costume Design: Stephanie Daniels; Stage Manager: Cassidy Bonifacio