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A Doll's House no child's play

Oct 29 2009
Bill Hirschman | 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. Ibsen's 1897 play outraged proper European society. But it presents as many problems for a modern audience. While there are Noras living right down the block from you, this one starts out so subservient, so co-dependent, that many audience members will have trouble rooting for her. Her only redeeming facet is that she secretly borrowed money to save her husband's life (and forged her father's signature on the loan), then labored years to secretly pay it back. Now the lender threatens to expose her if she doesn't get her husband to promote him. Lowe's Nora reacts slowly and credibly to the realization that the marriage is fatally flawed and her entire life to date has been a mistake. 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. Nora has a long road ahead to self-realization. William Hayes' direction is smooth, insightful and never lets the lengthy play lag. The sole rough spot occurs when the blackmailer abandons his revenge when offered the love of a good woman. The hairpin turn is simply not believable as staged.