A Doll House

It's always difficult to have to be critical when a fledgling group of eager but inexperienced young people bravely spreads its theatrical wings for the first time and takes flight from the highest branches. Inaugurating a play-producing company takes courage and a bit of naivete, but making a debut with something as difficult as Ibsen--especially cast with actors far too young--is an unfortunate decision.

This sincere new troupe exacerbates its well-meant misstep by updating 19th century Norway to 1950s America. While it is true that men of both periods often treated their wives as their own personal Barbie dolls, there's doubt whether a 1950s husband would have referred to his mate as "my little featherheaded bundle of stubbornness," nor was it law that a wife couldn't borrow money without her husband's consent. Dr. Rank still says he never had the privilege to see Nora's legs, an understandable 1879 reference, but in 1950 all he has to do is look down. It's odd, too, that the characters still speak of currency in pounds, and that Nora enters carrying Bloomingdale's Big Brown Bags.

The ensemble shows considerable promise, particularly Tim Venable as Torvald, David Tittle as Krogstad, and Mandy Levin--who would have made a great Nora--as Mrs. Linde. The trouble is, considering the performers' youth and the lead performance of Stephanie Greene--who plays Nora as Glenda the Good Witch on speed--it doesn't work. Although obviously an exceptional actor with perfect diction and a mature look, Venable can't hide the fact that no matter how talented one is, one can't play Torvald in his late 20s. Caroline Law clearly has a future as a director, but she stages with a lopsided focus on one side of the stage while a mostly unused dining room set dominates the other. She also needs to concentrate on details, such as the moment when Nora announces she is leaving but taking only her most treasured possessions--and then grandly sweeps two small nondescript candles and a tiny snowman figurine into her knitting basket. Ibsen is not a writer who provides room for such unintentionally humorous distractions.