A Doll's House at Playhouse starts slowly, but finishes with a bang

by Eric James

Daily Cougar Staff

Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House is one of the all-time great theatrical works. It was well ahead of its time back in 1879 with its first production, and it still presents one of the most powerful closing scenes today.

The play often appears slow and tedious compared to more contemporary plays, but The Country Playhouse has taken on the task of presenting this classic play, and they put on a fine show.

The story revolves around Torvald and Nora Helmer, a respectable Norwegian couple who have fallen upon hard times. Torvald has recently received a job as head of a new bank, and this means more money for him and his wife. Nora is flighty, inconsiderate and, most of all, obsessed with money.

Torvald, as is soon divulged, has recently overcome a severe illness. Nora received some money to take him on a trip to Italy in hopes of curing him. The trip worked, but Nora had borrowed the money from an ill-reputed banker, Nils Krogstad. Krogstad threatens to expose her for forging her father's signature to obtain the loan, unless she helps secure his job at Torvald's bank. He was disgraced for forgery and now needs his job at the bank in order to redeem his social respectability.

Torvald has no idea of any of these goings-on, and he would never suspect his wife of any misdoings. Torvald refers to Nora as his "little squirrel," his "little skylark" and his "little scatterbrain."

This is the relationship between Torvald and Nora. She is the subservient wife who is there to make her husband look good and do all that he says. Nora seems fine with that role until her friend Kristine Linde shows up and displays the important role in society that a woman can play. She has become independent and broken free of the role that men expect her to play. This starts the wheels spinning.

Another family friend, the ailing Dr. Rank, also professes his love to Nora. This shows her that she did not need to settle for Torvald.

It is this metamorphosis, Nora becoming a free-thinking woman, that makes the play great. It is a classic play, however, and you may need to be a theater enthusiast to really enjoy it. It often moves slowly, but the end is phenomenal. The play's lack of constant forward mobility is not the fault of the actors, but the classic style being presented in a now-faster time.

The acting is top-notch. Anne Quackenbush heads the cast as Nora. Her portrayal is dead-on and makes the transformation tangible and believable. Torvald is skillfully played by Joseph E. Hudson, who is great at delivering such lines as "my most prized possession" when referring to Nora. His condescending attitude is enough to make one cringe.

Kristine is played well by Laura Loth. She provides the needed actions to move Nora ahead, and she does so without ever diminishing her worth or power in the play.

Alex Feigelson tackles the despised role of Krogstad, and he plays the part well. You understand his strife, and you almost want him to do well.

The maids are played by Salle Ellis and University of Houston's own Doris Davis. The true standout, however, is George Brock as Dr. Rank. His characterization is brilliant, and his wit and timing are superb. He makes his acting debut at The Country Playhouse, and they will hopefully try to utilize his talents more in the future. He is definitely a Houston acting find.

Bob Maddox directs the play and displays a fine grasp of the material, and the talents of his actors. The beautiful costumes were designed by Carmen Sewell, and George Brock designed the sets, which include a most-impressive fireplace, among other features.

A Doll's House is a wonderful play by a brilliant playwright. It would be well worth seeing for all theater-goers, and it is a must-see play for all feminists.

It plays through Oct. 7 at The Country Playhouse at Town and Country Mall. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with two 2 p.m. Sunday matinees Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 and can be reserved by calling the box office at 467-4497.

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