According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

by Aaron Riccio

The problem with Nora is that it makes the superior, natural A Doll’s House into a technical, surreal production. It’s Ingmar Bergman literally doing Henrik Ibsen, and is about what you’d expect. And even after all the clever cuts and additions, the lengthy, proselytizing ending (long enough to be an honorary opera death scene) is still there, almost word for word. Plays today are too often about telling people off and explaining everything; A Doll’s House balanced that with the rich character growth that Nora so easily shrugs off.

However, Nora works just as well as zippy drama. The play replaces the melodrama with short and haunting scenes—some just seconds long, a whispered phrase, perhaps, or a statuesque gesture. It’s quite appealing, and leaves plenty to the imagination. Director Pamela Moller Kareman has real cinematic verve, and her staging is pretty, though the scenic choices are begging for a dissertation. (Why surround a bench with trees and snow? Is it, perhaps, a metaphor for this songbird’s cage?)

Unfortunately, realism doesn’t mesh with affected technical cues. The music—eerie, synthesized carols—takes away from the dialogue’s subtlety, just like the “mood lighting” (how else to explain the emphatic dimming of the lights?). In a movie, we are liable to accept artistic blocking; in a play, it grows strained, and in this sense, Nora is more a doll’s house than the original. The characters are puppets, and the strings of artifice never go away.

Yet actors always find a way to persevere: John Tyrrell (Krogstad) and Tyne Firmin (Dr. Rank) deliver marvelously opposite performances (desperate evil versus desperate good) and Carey Macaleer’s (Nora) enthusiastic energy is catchy, even if her breathy, rapid voice sometimes overwhelms the subtext. However, this façade meshes well with her character’s cheery mask, and it gives Macaleer the extra edge to play this difficult role.

However (and the faint of heart might want to stop reading here) this art-house reinterpretation of a classic is ultimately very bad. Not because of the direction, not because of the script. Not even because of most of the actors, but because of just one. Troy Myers, who is now The Worst Actor I Have Ever Seen, single-handedly ruins the show. His dictation-perfect lines might be excusable if he didn’t also keep stumbling over them. And his stumbling might not be so offensive if he were at least emotionally connected. Torvald is emotionally naïve, not autistic. Myers makes the show unwatchable; the stick-up-his-ass is clearly in his throat, too. He’s like a broken mirror: he not only fails to show anything, he distorts what is actually good. I applaud the cast’s attempts to continue acting with such a negative actor, but the fact that nobody acknowledges Torvald’s odd behavior implicates them in this theatrical crime as well. The show, contrary to popular belief, must NOT go on when it is this bad. For such potential to be so easily is more than sad, it is offensive.

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