Wineke: Ibsen’s “Doll House” may be even more modern than it seems
SPRING GREEN, Wis. — Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, “A Doll’s House,” seems a century before its time, raising issues of a woman’s place in society and in the family decades before they became known issues in western society.
But the play, now being performed at American Players Theatre near Spring Green, may still raise more questions than it answers.
The plot, set in the living room of a Norwegian middle-class family, features Torvold and Nora Helmer, played by Nate Burger and Kelsey Brennan.
Nora is initially a flibbertigibbet who spends more money than Helmer makes, uses flirtation to bend her stuffy husband around her finger and is overjoyed at the news that Torvold will take a well-compensated job at the bank and seems to let her nanny, Anna (Carolyn Ann Hoerdemann), raise her three children.
Only some of that is true.
As it turns out, Nora borrowed money from a somewhat shady character, Nils Krogstad (Juan Rivera Lebron) to take Torvold to Italy, a journey necessary to save his life.
Krogstad shows up, threatens to make Nora’s life miserable and to destroy Torvold’s reputation, and, generally, blows up the whole Potemkin Village that was the Helmers’ life.
In the end, however, Krogstad is reunited with an old love, drops his blackmail and saves Torvold’s precious reputation. Alls well that almost ends well. The problem is that Nora has had just enough of being Torvold’s doll and she walks out on him, leaving Anna to raise their three children.
That’s just one plot line. There are others, including the ironic twist that Anna also raised Nora.
But the main theme is woman’s independence from male domination and that’s a societal issue that hasn’t changed much in 140 years.
Nor has the sub-question of how a moral woman can just walk out on her children because she wants to be free.
Is Nora the precursor of the modern liberated woman? Or, is she, in the long run, the flibbertigibbet she seemed in the beginning?
It’s an interesting question in a provocative presentation.
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