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Acting Sparkles in 'Doll's House' Revival

November 20, 1998|JANA J. MONJI

Los Angeles Repertory Company presents a well-acted and well-appointed revival of Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House," translated by Rolf Fjelde, at the Robert Pickering Studio Theatre.

Abby Craden, who played the scheming Abigail in "The Crucible" at Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum last summer, portrays Nora's anxious demeanor with a sweaty, feverish energy. She whirls around in a tizzy, trying to please her husband Torvald Helmer (Brendan Ford). Relaxation comes only when she is with her dying friend Dr. Rank (Thomas Kopache).

Ford's Torvald is a man of controlled, paternalistic steel tempered with pride of ownership. Nora is his most prized pet, his little "lark" or "squirrel." He is not a bad man, but a kind master and owner, as he believes is his right. Yet as Craden's Nora hops and skips to please her husband, we glimpse her captive intelligence struggling to emerge.

Nora's tormentor, the blackmailing moneylender Nils (Michael Krawic), is a man beyond hope, grasping for acceptance. Director Eric Almquist lets us sympathize with Nils and Dr. Rank, who possess a humility lacking in Ford's Torvald, the golden boy and morally faultless man. When Nora finally realizes the awful pretense of her existence, Craden shows exhaustion, not rage.

Doug Spesert's detailed costuming and Alicia Maccarone's bright, airy scenic design help define the sharp contrast between the Helmers' beautiful facade and their emotional morass.

*

* "A Doll's House," Robert Pickering Studio Theatre, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., 2nd floor, Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Dark Thanksgiving week. Ends Dec. 12. $12. (323) 782-5565. Running time: 3 hours, 15 minutes.

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