After watching Frederick Theatre’s performance of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, not only was I blown away by the spectacular acting, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the consistent theme of “the female role in society”, and addressing it as a social issue.
This play comprises of three acts, depicting the relationship between Nora Helmer and Torvald Helmer slowly deteriorating. Upon the first act, the atmosphere is naive and innocent. The key thing I noticed within the opening of the play was the elaborate set design. Just as a Barbie dreamhouse, it illuminated the charismatic nostalgia of childlike wonder; yet soon grew ominous and menacing as the relationship between Nora and Torvald became more apparent. In the first act, Torvald calls Nora demeaning nicknames such as ‘Squirrel’, or ‘Skylark’, treating her as an adolescent rather than an equal.
Though these belittling names seem to pose no effect on Nora, they still demonstrate how men of that time period would treat women. This theme is brought up later when Nora meets her dear friend Christine, a hard-working woman creating a life for her family and herself. Although Christine is also a woman, she works hard for her life, rather than Nora, who doesn’t have the agency to do what she wishes. Later on, Nora admits to lying to Torvald ‘for his own sake’, which ends up taking their relationship down an abhorrent dark hole.
By far, the most moving part of this play is in Act III, when Nora decides to stand against Torvald, and defend herself. Not only does she finally tell Torvald the truth, but she expresses her uttermost feelings, finally recognizing the way she’d been treated in the relationship. Even though Torvald defines to her that she “must never do that again… must have a clean beak to chirp with—no false notes!” (Ibsen Act I.), she thinks for herself, and eventually concludes to leave him, and discover who she really is.
After pondering and looking at this play in a retrospective manner, a few things were brought to my attention; the first being the dramatic shift of tone in the play. In the Helmer household, each of the characters emit an aura of ‘looks’ and ‘perfection’ even though they seem to be struggling financially. Nora constantly prances around, omitting any negative thoughts that enter the home, while also trying her best to appease Torvald. This ‘perfection’ resides throughout the entire play, which makes it as dark as it is. Having a bright fuchsia backdrop with pristine furniture while Torvald essentially harasses Nora adds to the uneasiness of the play, due to the severe contrast between the “happy” setting, and the failing marriage. More specifically, this antithesis becomes more distinguished as the play continues on, even when Torvald tries to be ‘loving’ towards Nora.
Having the chance to watch this show before its performance date was such a great experience, and I highly recommend this show if you’re looking to watch a piece that will inspire more people to treat each other as equal individuals.