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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 11, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 2
Seattle Shakes' A Doll's House is a beautifully mounted classic revival
Arts & Entertainment
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Seattle Shakes' A Doll's House is a beautifully mounted classic revival

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

A DOLL'S HOUSE
SEATTLE SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
Through January 27


Life can change in an instant. That's what it seems to do for Nora in Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, now playing at Seattle Shakespeare Company. Nora's life has been conventional and constrained, within the mores of the times in which she lives, and her joy has been in pleasing her husband and taking care of her children. But in an instant, her whole life is shaken and she makes what might be a startling decision.

The production is a beautifully mounted technical achievement, firstly, with a great 'reveal' moment at the beginning, when the set opens before the audience. Craig Wollam's set is a gracious, but a bit humble, Victorian-era drawing room with a wood-burning stove discreetly off to the side. Pete Rush's costumes reflect clean lines and the characters' sense of proportion. It is supported by warm lighting by Tim Wratten and solid sound design by Jay Weinland.

POWER COUPLE
The production is directed by Russ Banham and with every directing opportunity, Banham cements himself into the top echelon of Seattle directors. He knows what he's going after and draws that from the actors. It helps that he's married to one of the best actresses in Seattle, Jennifer Sue Johnson, and that he gets to cast her in a play like this.

Jennie Sue (colloquially speaking) has a great wide-eyed ingénue look, but just as in real life, her cheerful exterior belies an enormous intelligence and capability. As Nora, her arc traverses a wide area of emotion, from initial ditzyness to solemn determination to grow as a person. In less capable hands, the production fails.

The rest of the ensemble here is also a lovely one, down to the children - a family affair with Mia Banham sharing the stage with her mom (directed by her dad) and Tessa Weinland, whose dad did the sound (and whose mom is another talented actress, Heather Hawkins). Even a tiny maid part is fully inhabited by Leah Fishbaugh. George Mount is a delightfully droll Dr. Rank; Betsy Schwartz understates gracefully the role of Mrs. Linde; Peter Dylan O'Connor makes Nils Krogstad almost a likable villain; and Jody McCoy makes everyone wish they had a nanny like Anne-Marie.

Michael Patten in the other key role, Torvald, the husband who wishes to keep his wife a doll-like creature, is solid in his portrayal of a dry banker type who is rigid in his precepts and never forgives any trespass. A small quibble here might be that he doesn't unbend enough to show his love for his wife, and his babying her is key to the turnaround. A slightly more emotive portrayal might deepen the experience.

Especially if you've read but never seen this play, you must go see it for yourself. It leaps off the page into life, also given the new translation by Sean Patrick Taylor, who preserves the sense of the times but allows for a more 'American' take in the style of language. There is nothing 'preserved' about this vigorous production. For more information, go to www.seattleshakepeare.org or call (206) 733-8222.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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