Review: A Doll's House

A Doll’s House

“Don’t speak …”

“Don’t speak …”

Photo courtesy of Capital Stage

A Doll's House, 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 7 p.m. Wednesday; $23-$35. Capital Stage, 2215 J Street; (916) 995-5464; Through November 22.
Rated 5.0

What are we to make of Nora Helmer, the heroine of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House? Is she a captive of —or a willing participant in—a male-centric society that paints men as large and in charge and women as weak and kittenish, using their feminine wiles to get the attention and affection they desire and deserve?

Both, I think, until she courageously begins to find herself, stop playing the game and live authentically. It still takes a brave woman to discover who she’s supposed to be and to become that person, as this adaptation by Capital Stage’s founding artistic director Stephanie Gularte proves. Gularte’s brilliant updating—she sets the action in 1948 America—is darn near perfectly realized by director Janis Stevens and her cast.

Brittni Barger is captivating as Nora, acting the subservient plaything to husband Thomas (Ryan Snyder, navigating from condescension to comprehension) until she realizes (late and yet rather suddenly) that her life is a sham and in shambles. The play depicts the unraveling of a family just as Thomas has been promoted and its money woes are over. But Nora has a secret debt, incurred with honorable intentions but a forged signature, and then comes the threat of blackmail.

The cast also includes the estimable Scott Coopwood as family friend Dr. William Rank; Elena Wright as Nora’s old friend Christine Linde, who also has a past affiliation with the somewhat sketchy and completely dangerous Nicholas Krogstad (Chad Deverman, delightfully despicable until redeemed); and Sandra Hill, comfortably invested as the children’s nanny.