Henry Ibsen wrote the play A Doll’s House as a daring portrait of a man who loves his wife as an equal. While that concept remains fresh in the #MeToo era, 150 years ago the thought of an equal partnership between man and wife was shocking.
Ibsen himself said, as he was writing it in 1879, “A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.” The glaring question, then, is how far we’ve come with regard to gender equality.
Aaron Lamb, artistic director for Harlequin Productions says, “It’s especially an interesting play to visit at this juncture in history. The #MeToo movement gives us — especially men like myself — an opportunity to listen, to learn and to begin to understand.”
Lamb added, “When we revisit a piece such as this after reflecting on what we’ve finally been able to hear from women, I think we can see it with a fresher eye and an opportunity to let the piece resonate. I do believe that this 150-year-old piece can have much more voice right now than it could’ve had even five years ago.”
Using the adaptation by William Archer, Ibsen’s long-time collaborator, Lamb made very few changes to the play. It’s remarkable, then, that a play written so long ago feels so relevant.
“The production will be a modern production,” Lamb elaborated, “with all the men in sleek, neutral suits and all the women in period, 1890-ish dress. In this way, we see that the men have progressed 140 years while the women have only been allowed to grow 20 years at most.” Nora will change into modern dress for her Act III discussion with Torvald.
Lamb said, “I think audiences of this generation will see a play that speaks very keenly to where we are as a society and will marvel that it was written 140 years ago. I hope to turn that question slightly: I think the better, more accurate and more appropriate question is, ‘How have we progressed so little in the past 140 years?’ ”
A Doll’s House
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater,
202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia
8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays,
2 p.m. Sundays, May 2-25;
8 p.m. Wednesday, May 8 (pay-what-you-can)