Category Archive for: ‘Greg & Suzanne Angeo’

A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen, Little Theater at St Vincent’s, San Rafael CA

Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo


Doll House  Challenges and Inspires

Gabriel Ross, Stephanie Ann Foster


Photograph courtesy of Marin Onstage


This enduring classic of the theatre is given a truly splendid presentation at Saint Vincent’s School under the auspices of Marin Onstage, the production arm of the Novato Arts Foundation.  Acclaimed 19th-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen is second only to Shakespeare in the popularity of his work. He is known as the father of realism in theatre, and helped usher in the modern age of relevance to audiences. One of his best-known plays, A Doll House, which is based on a true story, premiered in Oslo, Norway in 1880. Less than ten years later it had been seen on stages all over the world. It had its Broadway premiere in December 1889, and like everywhere  else, stirred great popular interest and controversy.

The play takes place in Norway over the Christmas holidays, with the seemingly light-hearted Nora (Stephanie Ann Foster) happily making preparations for her family. Her successful lawyer husband Torvald (Gabriel Ross) rules his little wife with a stern but loving hand, lecturing her about her foolish ways. Nora’s long-lost friend Kristine (Kelsey Sloan) arrives at their home needing help, which they are all too happy to give. One of Torvald’s associates, Nils Krogstad (Jim McFadden), and family friend Dr Rank (Bill McClave) form the last intriguing pieces in this puzzle of relationships. The ebullient Nora has a secret that she is desperate to keep: she has committed an unforgiveable transgression, one that could cost her her marriage and her home.

Foster’s Nora moves with breathtaking grace while dancing or scampering about, like the “little squirrel” her husband is so fond of calling her. There’s finely controlled shading under her childlike persona that reveals itself to be only a candy coating. She’s  cleverly fashioned this sweet veneer to survive in her husband’s controlling world. To be sure, it’s a world he fills with pet names, affection and patronizing indulgence of his treasured doll. Ross is restrained and underplays his role in the opening scenes. He skillfully allows layer upon layer to fall away, concluding in a champagne-fuelled exchange with Nora that has devastating consequences for them both. Sloan as Kristine is deceptively subtle when she first appears. She projects keen intelligence and goodwill, ultimately making a decision that saves more than one life. McFadden as Krogstad is excellent in his role as the villain with a romantic secret. McClave as Dr Rank provides an element of wistful pathos. Lynn Sotos, as the dependable family housekeeper, turns in a solid performance.

Award-winning playwright and director Ron Nash draws on his considerable decades-long experience in the Swedish and New York theaters to guide his cast through the challenging emotional hills and valleys of this piece. Of his work on A Doll House he says “I love directing relevant plays, plays with meat that challenge and inspire people… I am honored to be directing this play.”

It’s been suggested that Nora symbolizes repressed womanhood breaking free from society’s prison, and that A Doll House launched the women’s movement. That may be so, but Nora is a much, much more important character than that. She represents not just womanhood, but humanity itself. Trapped in social conventions and expectations that can stifle our souls, Ibsen shows us that we often deny our true nature when we try to fit in and be accepted. We don’t fully realize our potential until we take control of our lives; that’s his message. It was revolutionary at the time because Ibsen chose a woman to be his champion, and seemed to challenge gender roles, something unheard of in those days. The powerful relevance of this play has been swept forward more than 120 years into a small theater in Saint Vincent’s School in San Rafael where local audiences can see it, and be amazed.

More of Ron Nash’s work with Marin Onstage at Saint Vincent’s Theater: An Evening of Short Plays by Bertold Brecht, Susan Glaspel and August Strindberg, February 14 through March 2, 2014.



When:  Now through November 17, 2013

Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets: $10 to $18

Location: The Little Theater at Saint Vincent’s School

1 Saint Vincent’s Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903

Phone: 415-448-6152


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