Gamm Theatre's current show is Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" with a new adaptation by Tony Estrella which sets the show in the turbulent late 1950's America when issues of gender, class and race were reshaping the country's identity.Tony says " Every social upheaval begins with individuals struggling to break free of illusion, those created by society and the ones we impose on ourselves. This play endures ultimately because it is so powerfully simple:It is one woman's battle to understand herself." It is Christmas Eve and sweet, cheery Nora Helmer, arms brimming with gifts, is reveling in her role as wife and mother until a knock at the door threatens to destroy her doll house of a world forever. Blackmailed for a forgery she committed years ago to save her husband's life, Nora schemes to squelch her secret and the consequences of its revelation to her husband's burgeoning career. As matters spin out of control, she must make a life-changing decision that has shocked and divided audiences for more than a century. Director Fred Sullivan casts topnotch performers in these roles and obtains stellar performances from them which earns them a standing ovation.
Fred makes this well known show fresh and new. He infuses his cast with the proper vision and direction, obtaining the best from them. Fred knows the characters of the show inside and out and blocks it beautifully. Patrick Lynch's 1950's living room set is spectacular as are Marilyn Salvatore's authentic 1950's costumes. Hard working stage manager Kate Ferdinandi keeps things moving smoothly all night long. Jeanine Kane does a stunning job as Nora. She delivers a tour-de-force performance in this role. Jeanine runs the gamut of emotions in this role and captures the raw emotions of a woman trying to do the right thing for her beloved husband but realizes she must stand up for herself at last and find herself as a human being. Nora was controlled by her father and now controlled by her husband, yearns to be free.This is one of the best things I have seen Jeanine perform in. Steve Kidd shows the transition from caring husband to a person who cares only about his own status quo in the end. Torvald pinches pennies although he has just become the bank president and also treats Nora as his little chipmunk, forbidding her to eat macaroons in the house. Steve shows great depth in this role and his breakdown scene is fantastic as he rages and rails about what happened, berating Nora. Steve's tearful final scene is powerful moment, too. Tony Estrella is topnotch as Nils Krogstad, the villain of this show. He usually plays heroic roles so this is another feather in his cap to play such a dastardly character. Nils is comparable to Shylock from "Merchant of Venice" as he holds the promissory note over Nora's head, threatening her to win back his job at the bank for him. The audience understands later in the show, Krogstad only wanted to provide for his four sons and he absolves Nora from responsibility after he gains the love of a former flame.
Tom Gleadow plays Dr. Rank her husband's best friend who although he is jovial and joking all the time, he is gravely ill. He is secretly in love with Nora but his love is unrequited. Tom has a very dramatic scene with Jeanine in Act 2 that stops the show with its powerful impact when he admits how he feels towards her. Nora's best friend, Kristine Linde is played by gorgeous blonde, Rebecca Gibel. Kristine is a dour woman at first, complaining about not loving her dead husband, having only married him to help care for her mother and two younger brothers. Kristine wins a job at Torvald's bank through Nora and has a secret connection to Krogstad that is revealed later in the show. Rebecca is excellent in this role displaying many layers as this woman. She makes a dynamic debut at Gamm, having previously played Guinevere in "Camelot" at Trinity Rep in 2010. Jeanine's two young daughters, Brigid, 11 and Fiona, 9 steal many a scene with their cute portrayals of the Helmer's children in this show and have funny moments with their mom, arguing with each other and then turning on a dime when reminded about Santa Claus. Rounding out the cast is Joan Batting as Helen, the maid who is a surrogate mother to Nora. So for a fantastic new adaptation of this classic tale be sure to catch "A Doll's House" at Gamm Theatre.