Jenny Ampersand

Toy housing market: Ibsen’s Doll

Shaking the Tree's dollhouse-bright production of Ibsen's masterpiece "A Doll's House" brings its issues vividly into the 21st century

Everyone wanted a piece of Henrik Ibsen, for good or bad, after he wrote A Doll’s House: Marxists, Communists, anarchists, feminists, censors. The trend hasn’t ended, and it’s a guffaw that a playwright who wrote about objectifying people had to politely defend his autonomy and privacy. In his way, Ibsen pioneered a path for such future artists as Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and J.D. Salinger to create provocative material and then shut the door to personal access.

Shaking the Tree opens its own door to the secrets of Ibsen’s house. The Portland theater company likes to play, right from the beginning of its handsome and lively new production of his 1879 masterwork: We enter the theater and are in the dollhouse. The molded orange door frame that Nora will exit to the outside world and freedom is the same pathway we pass through to find our seats. There is hardly a stage: it’s an environment, and the only things that separate us from the performers are our seats.

Nikki Weaver as Nora, Jacob Coleman as Torvald. Photo: Gary Norman

Nikki Weaver as Nora, Jacob Coleman as Torvald. Photo: Gary Norman

The breakdown, in brief: Nora Helmer (in this production, the sparkling and generous Nikki Weaver) is a married woman with three children who has a platonic love affair with her husband’s best friend. Torvald, her husband, was ill, and she forged her father’s signature to get a loan. The loan was from a lawyer named Krogstad, a social outcast who had a relationship with Nora’s childhood friend, Kristine, and both are eventually employed by Nora’s husband. Over Christmas, Nora’s self-imposed exile into false happiness is upturned by the realities of corruption, death and change. Once the door is open, there’s no going home: Nora leaves her husband and children to become a full human being, not the shadowy image of who she is supposed to be.

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