If you like your Ibsen as cold and dark as a Scandinavian winter, be warned: When it comes to sadness and despair, British director Carrie Cracknell’s A Doll’s House — imported from London’s Young Vic, now at Brooklyn Academy of Music through March 16 — comes up a little short.
No, this Doll’s House is playful, amusing, and enchanting in ways you never imagined the 1879 play could be. It starts with the house itself: Ian MacNeil’s fantastically intricate multi-room set, which rotates round and round on a turntable with sometimes dizzying speed. So many walls for Nora (Hattie Morahan) to bounce off! So many spots for her to hide secrets — not to mention chocolates! — from her husband, Torvald (Dominic Rowan).
And finally! A Torvald who isn’t a complete tool. His pet names for Nora?phrases like little swallow, little hamster, little creature — sound much more tolerable/less icky when coming from someone so tall, dark, and handsome. No wonder she bills and coos for him. No wonder she illegally borrowed an astonishing amount of money to fund a life-saving trip abroad when his health was failing. (Regrettably, that good deed won’t go unpunished.),
Another casting stroke of genius: the extremely dashing Steve Toussaint as the dying Dr. Rank, the couple’s good friend and frequent visitor. It makes Nora’s blatant flirtations with him completely believable, and it makes his love for her (no spoilers when it’s so obvious!) all the more touching. And his confession, like the rest of British playwright Simon Stephens’ superb English-language adaptation, is simple, spare, and unadorned: ”I love you. So. Now you know.”
But this Doll’s House revolves around Morahan, quite literally. At first, her take on Ibsen’s proto-feminist heroine seems almost too light. Is Nora just a dumb blonde? Perhaps?or perhaps she’s just pretending to be. Her Nora is an absolute chameleon: She’s a playmate with her children; a coquette with Dr. Rank; a self-absorbed if well-intentioned friend to her childhood pal Kristine (Caroline Martin); a businesswoman with the blackmailer Mr. Krogstad (Nick Fletcher); and child, bird, and doll to her husband. You never know what Morahan will be when the set spins. And that’s absolutely thrilling. A?
(Tickets: BAM.org or 718-636-4100)