Reviewed by Glenda Frank
Presented by the Century Center for the Performing Arts at Century Center's Ballroom Theatre, 111 E. 15th St., NYC, Oct. 28–Nov. 18.
Theatre buffs, like everyone else, have wish lists, and somewhere on mine is an earthshaking production of Henrik Ibsen's "The Lady from the Sea." The production at Century Center didn't shake the Richter scale, but it offered some praiseworthy touches.
Ibsen earned his epithet, the Father of Modern Drama, for more than writing "A Doll's House." "The Lady from the Sea" tackles astonishing themes for 1888—and current ones for 2000. This is Ibsen's "Act Two," and then some.
We learn early that Ellida (Laurena Mullins) is Dr. Wangel's second wife, and that his two teenage daughters still celebrate their deceased mother's birthday. What we don't learn, until later, is that Ellida also had a first spouse (without benefit of clergy). The irony is that the widower can let go, but his wife, who barely knew her demon lover, can't dismiss the early passion after six years of marriage. So the conflict shifts to her choice between two types of love—a theme familiar from Donald Margulies' "Dinner with Friends."
"The Lady from the Sea" should crackle with family tensions, youthful longings (the older daughter's hunger to leave the dull fjords where bachelors are few), satirical sketches, and sexual energy (when Ellida's lover returns demanding she leave with him). But director Alfred Christie plays it with respectful earnestness and semi-hysteria. Ibsen's plays are more than museum pieces, as the recent sell-out, prize-winning Broadway production of "A Doll's House" proved.
The hit of the show was easily the charismatic Jennifer E. Corby as the older daughter. I bet there are nominations in her future. Larry Petersen was an affecting Dr. Wangel. Most of Sydney Maresca's many period costumes—both the crisp and the lush—were eye candy and just right. Tim Goodmanson's scenery was a theatre historian's joy in its combination of the pictorial with the realistic, which is what the new realists like Ibsen were demanding. "Lady" is the sixth play in the Century Center's Ibsen series.