‘A Doll’s House’ is no child’s play

There are plays meant to entertain and there are plays meant to challenge the mind. “A Doll’s House” falls into the latter category.

Written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen and translated by Frank McGuinness,the play is a classic that was recently brought to life by OU’s music, theatre and dance department.

“I believe I am first of all a human being, just as much as you — or at any rate that I must try to become one.”

This is one of the many thought-provoking lines from character Nora Helmer, played by Alexa Moffo. She is a woman who at first acts the silly, loving role for her husband of eight years, playing for him as a doll would for a child, but who comes to question her role as a wife and identity as a woman as the play progresses. 

“A Doll’s House” is a mature play and its success relies heavily on the eight-person cast’s dialogue and interactions, particularly Nora’s. Moffo seems to realize this and carries her role beautifully, keeping a strong grip on the audience from beginning to end with her natural delivery of Nora’s words and actions.

Tim Falk in particular provides a smooth and subtle performance as the cranky yet lovable Dr. Rank. His few, layered lines are delivered in a manner that reaches the audience in a way print cannot.

His quiet parting line, “Thank you for the light,” is one of the most powerful ones.

Brian Baylor also performs well as Nora’s husband, creating his own version of the obliviously condescending, over-confident and immature Torvald Helmer. His lines are cringe-worthy and strongly delivered, particularly towards the end, when things get emotional.

He insultingly teases Nora for borrowing money from him, doesn’t let her eat macaroons as they will stain her teeth and constantly refers to her as his “helpless little thing” and “girl” and “child.”

While women today may cringe, it wasn’t unusual for the time when this play was written. Nineteenth century wives were viewed as helpless creatures without their husbands, and “A Doll’s House”, revolutionary at the time, focuses on that theme of women’s rights and responsibilities.

“I have to find out who’s right — society, or me,” Nora says towards the end of her play, when she is left lost and confused with her place in the world. “I have just found out that the laws are different from what I thought they were, but in no way can I get it into my head that those laws are right.”

The play is all dialogue, but it’s interesting dialogue that was well-delivered and still a topic of interest in the 36 years since Ibsen first wrote it.

A Doll’s House” opened last weekend and will continue through Feb. 15. Visit www.oakland.edu/mtd for more information.