Jessica Chastain Returns to Broadway – The Hollywood Reporter

Jessica Chastain was on stage, as Nora Helmer, when the audience started to sign up Doll’s house. Watching every inch the gorgeous, troubled trophy wife in a black dress uncharacteristic of the period, her expression a mask of crippling absence, she paced back and forth across the stage. on a slow turntable. She’ll rarely leave that chair during this dramatic slow-moving take on Ibsen’s landmark TV series, which built a bridge between the original 1879 setting of Ibsen. it and today in Amy Herzog’s new laser-focused modern adaptation.

Tied with bold austerity even by director Jamie Lloyd’s usual standards, the production finds a scorching intensity in the stillness. Simple wooden chairs – plus the wheelchair used by actor Michael Patrick Thornton, who plays the ailing cynical Doctor Rank with delicious insensitivity and simmering sexual tension – are the elements. landscape element or sole prop in harsh play spaces. There is no setting to cover the bare brick walls and wings of the Hudson Theater stage.

Until a stunning coup d’etat in the closing moments (no spoilers here), the director’s only support is the sound of Nora’s unseen children; the doorbell rings frequently, announcing that the guests are both welcome and fearful; disturbing ambient music by the great Ryuichi Sakamoto and German electronic composer Carsten Nicolai, who records as Alva Noto; and Jon Clark’s ruthless lighting design, engulfing Nora in darkness as her world closes on her.

Minimalism may look more like a rigorous acting exercise than a most expensive Broadway revival, but stripping away extra details to delve into emotional and psychological subtleties. The body of the document is Lloyd’s signature.

This staging is even more bare-bones than director Harold Pinter’s resurgence Treachery, led by Tom Hiddleston and shown on Broadway in 2019; or take on his equal praise Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy, who performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater last year. Both of those products were shipped from London, while Doll’s house – originally planned for the West End – will debut on Broadway.

Herzog is one of the most profoundly humanist American playwrights to emerge in the past 15 years, her sensitivity and aptitude for detailed portraits expressed in works such as After the revolution, 4000 Miles, Belleville And Mary Janethe latter was a great vehicle for Carrie Coon in the New York premiere.

She deftly condenses three of Ibsen’s traditional acts into two uninterrupted hours that enhance the original playwright’s intent to show the ways in which a patriarchal society interferes with the human role. of women. That applies here to the limited covenant on marriage in 19th-century Europe as it applies to women worldwide today, who are still vying for a seat at the dinner table. Equality.

The three actions may have been merged into one, but the three-dimensional trajectory of Nora’s character is still clearly defined in Chastain’s performance. At first, she was flying, snobby, charming, playing the part one would expect of her. She’s delighted with her husband’s new position of Torvald (Arian Moayed) as a bank manager, which will ultimately alleviate their money worries and allow her to enjoy the pleasures of life. material pleasures she craves.

Occasionally applying the slightest hint of a frolicking child’s voice to get what she wants, Nora seems only slightly annoyed by Torvald’s intimidating, controlling side. He forbade her from eating sugar, allegedly out of concern for her teeth but more likely to keep his “sweet chick” petite. And his words as he gently reprimands her for her poor self-expression – “It’s okay, you little madman” – says a lot about his views on her intelligence. she.

What is surprising is that this production spurred Nora to the point of narcissism, self-indulgence, aversion to flirting rather than concern for her airless existence. She is condescending and insensitive to both her widowed, cash-strapped schoolmates Kristine Linde (Jesmille Darbouze) and Anne-Marie (Tasha Lawrence), the nanny who raised her and is now performing duties. same service for her children.

Kristine candidly comments that Nora is still a child, and that assessment of this pampered woman is true, first because of her beloved father and now because of her young husband. child. Nora mentions doing some sewing to help financially during a tough time, but she doesn’t know how hard it was for Kristine, even if she agrees to tell Torvald about a job job. Herzog’s adaptation doesn’t soften Nora’s sense of privilege, enjoying the sudden power Torvald has over the entire staff while at the same time playfully yearning to tell her husband, “Damn it.”

Nora, Kristine, and Anne-Marie are all women traumatized by money in a society that only expects them to know how to spend it. Chastain had to admit that Nora’s obnoxiousness and insensitivity to other women’s difficulties didn’t turn her own escalating problems into a schadenfreude moment. In the end, Nora’s abraded edges reveal itself as a painfully thin layer of armor, making the dismantling of her safety cut deeper — both for the character herself and for the audience. .

Chastain finds every aspect of evil humor in Nora’s initial smugness – she humorously vows not to tell all about herself when she catches up with Kristine, then goes on to do exactly that. She bravely maintains a relaxed self-confident look even as anxiety begins to overwhelm her. Watching her take a break — her dance rehearsal Torvald insists she perform for friends at a party is like a seizure — and slowly rebuild herself with determination. hardened heart once the thrilling truth about her marriage is revealed.

The chief architect of her undo is Krogstad (Okieriete Onaodowan), the banker who tries to blackmail Nora after losing his job. She illegally borrowed to pay for a recuperation trip to Italy when Torvald was in ill health, and when her deception first came to light, she was naive. believes her good intentions will keep her from being harshly judged. Onaodowan, from the original Hamilton actor, using his imposing physical presence to powerful effect without having to loom over Nora. His words were clear: “I’ll tell you this… What if I was thrown back into the dirt? You will go with me.

When Nora’s persuasion fails on Krogstad, she enlists the help of Kristine, who has a past connection to him. And her plan to beat Dr. Rank for debt forgiveness fell apart when he confessed his feelings for her, while also revealing that his health had reached its final tipping point. .

Chastain is great when Nora has no other choice, her mind ticks every possible outcome until Torvald inevitably discovers her transgression and explodes with a stern personality. A man’s morality is more concerned with public appearance than the loyalty of his spouse. His sense of superiority was evident earlier when he arrogantly explained the disease of lying that could contaminate entire families, tracing every tendency to crime to one person. cheating mother.

All of this is consistent with Ibsen’s original text. But Lloyd’s soft-voiced intimacy in production – the actors are tailored to suit the approach – and the choice to have Nora pinned in place like a butterfly through each encounter. intense encounters, increase psychological risk, make us uncomfortable. right next to her. The director effectively manipulates spatial dynamics by having the actors — most of whom are scattered across the stage and only grouped in tight pairs as dictated by the script — assemble behind Nora like a board of directors. survey.

Moayed (a first-rate stage actor widely known as Beny on heir) chills Torvald’s judgmental tone, especially since it’s the only time in the play where a voice is raised. He’s equally compelling when the scandal is averted and Torvald forgives Nora as if it were a noble gift. This is a man who considers himself to be to blame. His condescension made it clear that continuing the marriage would suffocate Nora; Nothing she said to explain her radical withdrawal plan could pierce his stubborn belief that being a husband meant possessing.

Herzog cannot completely avoid the didacticism of Nora’s awakening, which is rooted in the Ibsen text. But that doesn’t make the final developments any less tug-of-war. When Torvald declares that no man sacrifices his dignity, even for the sake of the one he loves, he remains unaware that for many women it is the unwritten provision of the marriage contract. Doll’s house was considered shocking at the time for showing Nora rejecting that trap. When she steps out of Helmer’s house and into the 21st century literally in this boldly conceived, acted out work, it both breaks her heart and gets her excited. .

Location: Hudson Theater, New York (through June 10)
Actors: Jessica Chastain, Arian Moayed, Okieriete Onaodowan, Jesmille Darbouze, Tasha Lawrence, Michael Patrick Thornton
Playwright: Henrik Ibsen, in the new version of Amy Herzog
Director: Jamie Lloyd
Designer: Soutra Gilmour
Costume Designers: Soutra Gilmour, Enver Chakartash
Lighting designer: Jon Clark
Music: Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto
Sound Designers: Ben & Max Ringham
Produce: Jamie Lloyd Company

Presented by Ambassador Theater Group Productions, Gavin Kalin Productions, Wessex Grove, Julie Boardman, Hunter Arnold, Bob Boyett, Creative Partners Productions, Eilene Davidson Productions, Kater Gordon, Stephanie P. McClelland, Tilted, Caitlin Clements/Amanda Lee, Ted & Richard Liebowitz/Joeyen-Waldorf Squeri, Caiola Productions/Kate Cannova

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