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The Slammed Door that Shook the World

A Radical Revision

In 2004, the provocative German director Thomas Ostermeier brought his version of A Doll’s House titled simply Nora to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The production utilized pop music and a strikingly modern set including an aquarium. While the character of Nora may seem less of an obvious victim with more choices in such an updated setting, her position remains a complicated one. Qstermeier suggested that relationships are still based on power with all human transactions reduced to either sex or money. A bleak vision to be sure, one that ended in an electrifying act of violence.Ostermeier admitted that in re-imagining the conclusion he was attempting to shock a more jaded modern audience in the same way they mighthave been in Ibsen’s own time. 

From Norway to King Edward’s England

Since the early 1990s, London’s Donmar Warehouse has been carefully building a brilliant reputation that includes both new work and classic drama.  In the summer of 2009, the Donmar premiered Zinnie Harris’ version of A Doll’s House with American actress Gillian Anderson in the lead. Updated from 1879 Norway to 1909 England, Nora’s dilemma plays out against the backdrop of Edwardian politics. Torvald becomes Thomas Vaughn, no longer a bank manager, but now an ambitious cabinet minister whose wife forged his name on a loan to help him recuperate from a nervous breakdown. Krogstad, now Kelman, is a disgraced politician who wants Nora to use her influence to restore his standing.  Money is no longer simply linked to marital troubles but to national reputations. Anderson’s performance as Nora was widely praised; Charles Spencer of The Telegraph called her “a superb Nora, by turns sexy, neurotic, manipulative, terrified and in the great last act merciless as she compares her position aswife to that of a prostitute and slams the door behind her.”

 A Man’s World

First developed at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2002, Mabou Mines DollHouse had its premier at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in 2003 and has toured the world since. Using scale as metaphor, this version asks how any woman can fit into a patriarchal society. This acclaimed production won two Obie awards for the 2003-04 season: Lee Breuer won for Best Direction and Maude Mitchell won for her performance as Nora. ArtsEmerson is  thrilled to host the final performance of DollHouse by this celebrated company.


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