Friday, October 30, 2009

Palm Beach DramaWorks: A Doll's House (4 reviews)

Palm Beach DramaWorks opened its production of A Doll's House on October 16, 2009.
Nora, a delightful spirit, is much less free than she first appears. She valiantly tries to please her husband but gets caught in the web of social expectations and domestic condemnation, and now her self-respect demands further action.
William Hayes directed a cast that included Margery Lowe, Michale St.Pierre, Nanique Gheridian, Gregg Wiener, Colin Lane, Michelle Botindari, and Beverly Blanchette.

Bill Hirschman, in what has been a productive week, reviews for the Sun Sentinel:
Margery Lowe's performance as Nora in Palm Beach Dramaworks' A Doll's House will split audiences.

It's not Lowe's fault; that's the part. She bravely and skillfully inhabits Henrik Ibsen's flawed heroine, who learns that her sheltered life is a sham she cannot live with. When imminent scandal exposes her husband's gentle tyranny, she finally walks out on him and her children to find herself.
...When she walks out, it's not as some newly-minted feminist who has found the strength to declare her independence, but as a frightened human being forced to own her integrity...
William Hayes' direction is smooth, insightful and never lets the lengthy play lag.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times; and as usual, he's not taking the middle ground:
There is a thick film of half-digested plaster and pressboard coating the streets of downtown West Palm Beach this week. It is all that remains of the once-proud scenery that actress Margery Lowe, in a frenzy of dramatic overachievement, chewed and swallowed and regurgitated and chewed again, as though it were an especially succulent cud, at the opening night of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House.
OK, I think he didn't...oh, wait, he's not done yet:
The actors dutifully act, and I suspect that, in rehearsal, director Bill Hayes at least tried his hand at directing.

Not enough... to keep petite little Margery Lowe from making Henrik Ibsen her bitch...
All-righty then, I think we have quite enough from Brandon on Margery. In fact, Brandon goes off on Margery in more or less the same manner he accuses her of doing with her performance. It's his opinion. Fair enough. Not arguing it. But enough.

Brandon did like the script, the sound design, the scenery, and the costumes. And some of the other performances, as well:
...Gheridian and Weiner turn in the best performances of the night: understated, sincere, and lovely.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
Margery Lowe's radiant Nora is like the high sustained vibrato note of a violin rising above the orchestra of a strong supporting cast. But the surprise of the production is Michael St. Pierre's shattering accompaniment as Torvald.
Thanks to producing artistic director William Hayes' insightful direction and St. Pierre's performance we see not only Torvald's hypocrisy and self-centered peevishness but glimpse the possibility of something better in him.
The pacing of the show is a little flawed. Nora's naked fear is evident so early on that it's difficult to believe that even Torvald wouldn't become suspicious. More restraint would make her unraveling more powerful.
The rest of the production rises to the considerable challenge of Ibsen's multilayered masterpiece.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...sometimes there is a very good reason why a classic has fallen into neglect. A Doll’s House may have outlived its purpose -- to illustrate one woman’s no-longer-shocking march towards liberation.
As Nora... (Margery Lowe) comes on impressively strong in the final act, turning on Torvald for treating her like a plaything and trying to suffocate her spirit.

But for the sake of contrast, Lowe miscalculates, making the pre-realization Nora into a child-woman, leaning heavily on the girlish giggles, sing-song cadences and unsubtle wind-up doll movements. One would have to be terminally symbolism-challenged not to get the point within minutes of the play’s start.
Ibsen does not help matters by having Nora’s “Click!” moment -- as Gloria Steinem would put it -- during intermission. It is not that Nora’s character has a huge contrasting arc, but rather it is an on-off switch.
Michael St. Pierre (Torvald) is aptly stolid as the very model of a major male chauvinist. Gregg Weiner comes off as constricted by the role of extortionist Krogstad, though he manages to humanize the character in a second act scene with Nora’s timid childhood chum, Mrs. Linde (Nanique Gheridian).
If, as is likely, you are way out ahead of the story line, you can always spend your time appreciating scenic designer Michael Amico’s austere living room set or Brian O’Keefe’s meticulous costumes, especially Nora’s wardrobe.
The Palm Beach DramaWorks production of A Doll's House runs through November 29, 2009.

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