Courtney Rizzo, MBA Class of 2015
In LiO, we spent a recent lecture discussing leading through conflict and uncertainty. The first step in making headway in this difficult situation is to look at what is happening “from the balcony” or “with a bird’s eye view.” Professor Lechner went on to illustrate her point of forgetting the details and focusing on the big picture by asking the class, “When was the last time you asked yourself to dinner and asked, ‘Self, how are you doing?’ ”
That is Nora’s critical thought moment in Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, A Doll’s House. Thinking back to 12th grade English, I remembered Nora’s action-speaks-louder-than-words door slam at the end but little of her self-actualizing journey, until I saw the Young Vic production at BAM last week.
As the first scene opens, the rotating set lends a toy-like quality to the house of the title. The drastic use of side lighting and the shadows that produced add to the effect of peering into the characters’ lives through tiny windows as the audience sees into the house from different angles. There is a feeling of uneasiness that fits the story as the characters buzz about the turning house during the scene changes.
The audience is introduced to Nora while she is distracted with keeping the details of the house and her family in order. Through this time, British actress Hattie Morahan uses greatly affected mannerisms, portraying Nora too literally as the bird of her husband’s pet name. She bends at the waist, gestures with floppy hands, and voices her lines with a lilt that ranged from high pitched and breathy to low and chesty in the same sentence. All together, it is too over the top and a bit annoying.
After all, we want to be on Nora’s side to support her through her journey. However, it is especially hard for an MBA student to get behind her when her friend Kristine says, “I need work that will challenge me. I need something that can make me think,” to which Nora sighs, “Oh Kristine. Are you sure?”
Fortunately, Morahan’s mannerisms are toned down for Act II as Nora becomes less compliant to her husband’s whims. Like when she appears in a bright red Tarantella dress for a costume party, Nora can’t hide in the details of keeping house and being a submissive wife when nobody appreciates her for her true self.
With this new outlook, she stands up for decisions she once made without her husband’s approval. Henrik only feeds the feminist fire. “I would gladly work night and day for you, Nora… But no man would sacrifice his honor for the one he loves,” the possessive husband says. Nora replies, “It is a thing hundreds of thousands of women have done.”
Like Dorothy’s twister-tossed house, Nora’s rotating home puts her in a place she doesn’t belong, and she musters the courage to escape. Once she diagnoses the root problem of disrespect, she is empowered to confront both the conflict from her husband and an uncertain future. And for that, the audience gave her a standing ovation.