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Review: 'Nora's' excellent cast cuts to the heart of a masterwork

December 06, 2012|By F. Kathleen Foley
  • Jeanette Driver and Brad Greenquist in "Nora" at Pacific Resident Theatre.
Jeanette Driver and Brad Greenquist in "Nora" at Pacific Resident… (Vitor Martins )

Creator of such epic projects as “Fanny and Alexander” and “Scenes From a Marriage” -- both later edited into feature-length format -- Ingmar Bergman hardly seems the go-to guy when it comes to condensing an existing script.

Yet “Nora,” Bergman’s briskly abbreviated version of Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” translated to the English by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, distills Ibsen’s overflowing themes into a bitter but bracing demitasse.

First produced in the early ‘80s, the play receives a near-optimum staging from director Dana Jackson at Pacific Resident Theatre. In uniformly cogent performances, a superlative cast cuts to the emotional heart of Ibsen’s masterwork.

Casting petite and gamine Jeanette Driver as Nora and towering, obviously older Brad Greenquist as her husband, Torvald, emphasizes Torvald’s complete domination of his child-like wife.  The actors’ inspired physicality -- with Torvald looming and Nora seductively cringing -- points up the underlying creepiness of their near-pederastic marriage.

Conversely, the moving romance between Nils Krogstad (Scott Conte), Nora’s blackmailer, and Nora’s old friend, Christine Linde (Martha Hackett) is devoid of artifice -- a coming together of battered souls who can no longer afford illusion.  As Nora’s admirer, terminally ill Doctor Rank, Bruce French balances wistful yearning with heroism.

But a few gratuitous segues do creep in. Jackson unwisely overblows Bergman’s coy indication that Nora and Torvald have sex just before Nora’s defection. 

As Driver plays her, Nora is so stunned by Torvald’s self-serving display that she allows herself to be manipulated into bed, like a blow-up doll.  Granted, that’s a bold interpretation -- but it largely vitiates Nora’s final epiphany and undermines her moral stature at a critical juncture.  

"Nora," Pacific Resident Theatre, 705 1/2 Venice Blvd., Venice. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Jan. 27.  $20-$28. (310) 822-8392.  Running time:  2 hours, 10 minutes.


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