Ron Nash’s Unique Adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll House at Marin Onstage

Marin Onstage presents A Doll House through November 17 at the Little Theater at St. Vincent’s in San Rafael.

A Doll House by Henrik Ibsen is a play that looks at the emancipation of women. Reflecting the beginnings of the women’s movement in the 19th century, the play is the story of Nora, a seemingly content and carefree mother of three daughters who soon comes to realize that her life is a sham and she will never be a good wife and good mother until she discovers herself.  This is almost impossible in 1878 when women have few rights. The theme in the play that interested Ibsen most was the different ethical code by which men and women live.

Although Director Ron Nash has gone for more conversational language than the customary translations, he never allows the play to drag and the evening doesn’t seem to long despite its three-hour duration.

A Doll House looks at the marriage of Nora Helmer (Stephanie Ann Foster), a supposedly loving wife and wonderful mother and Torvald (Gabriel A. Ross), who has landed a decent job, finally giving the family financial security.  But as characters from the past enter their cheerful home, cracks gradually appear in the couple’s relationship and an intense struggle develops between love and truth, honor and betrayal, and finally between an old-fashioned husband and disobedient wife.

Stephanie Ann Foster is magnificent as Nora—a frivolous, irresponsible, spendthrift.  Initially she seems almost shallow, but becomes more three-dimensional as the play goes along.  Gabriel A. Ross gives a solid performance in the difficult role as her domineering husband, a hard nosed business man whose level headed exterior evaporates when he encounters Nora’s irrational behavior.

There is a superb supporting cast including Kelsey Sloan as Kristine Lind, an old friend of Nora’s and Jim McFadden as the manipulative Nils Krogstad, who provides an interesting contrast to the Helmer’s.  Both are people who have been nearly destroyed by life, yet are able to create a second chance for happiness for themselves.  Bill McClave portrays Dr. Rank, the dependable friend who confesses his love for Nora when he discloses he is dying.  Lynn Sotos is endearing as Anne-Marie who takes care of the children and Helmer’s household.

Designer Gary Gonser’s set is typically Scandinavian, a plain middle class home in which there seems to be a doll—until she realizes she is first and foremost a human being and her duty is to herself before being a wife and mother.

Gary Gonser co-founded the Novato Arts Foundation in 2004 and started the production arm, Marin Onstage in 2012.  A Doll House runs through November 17, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Performances are held t the Little Theater at St Vincent’s, 1 St. Vincent’s Drive, San Rafael.  For tickets, call 415-448-6152 or go online at

Coming up next will be an evening of short plays. The Jewish Wife by Bertolt Brecht, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, and Miss Julie by August Strindberg, February 14-March 2, 2014.

Flora Lynn Isaacson