Dollhouse, 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; $10-$15. The Alternative Arts Collective in the Blue Box Theatre, Lea Way and Oxford Street (off the alley behind The Greens Hotel at 1700 Del Paso Boulevard); Through December 21.
Rated 4.0

This smart, streamlined adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House moves the focus from the loss of identity women experience in traditional marriage to an examination of the power structures associated with economic independence, using a bit of gender-blind casting that updates the story for contemporary audiences.

As Nora, Alexandria Ann Quinonez is by turns frantic and sullen; we can see her resentment growing throughout the play. She is, ultimately, another of Ibsen’s “daddy’s girls,” albeit one that survives rather than self-destructs. Her spouse, Torvald (Lauren Wolf), has the usual arrogance and self-obsession, but the patronizing attitude that makes Torvald so unlikable is—as no doubt intended by director David Blue Garrison—jarring when it comes from such a beautiful young woman. It shines a harsh light on the damage a power imbalance can wreak on a relationship, and that is exactly the point. The problem has never been merely one gender vs. another, but the reality of some people having power at the expense of others.

This production has all the bells and whistles—gloomy Scandinavian lighting by Tim Galindo, an incredible set by Garrison—as well as strong performances by all the supporting players (and a wonderful turn by young Adam Vitaich as the Helmer’s son).

We can only hope that—at some point—power and status become less destructive to human relationships.