‘A Doll’s House’ Broadway review: Jessica Chastain is trapped

Normally stripping a play right down to the naked necessities — easy costumes, just a few chairs — renders it rawer and extra genuine.

Not so within the uneven revival of “A Doll’s Home,” starring Oscar winner Jessica Chastain, that opened Thursday night time on Broadway.

Theater evaluation

Working time: 1 hour and 40 minutes. On the Hudson Theatre, 141 W. forty fourth St.

Regardless of an absorbing efficiency from the “Eyes of Tammy Faye” actress, British director Jamie Lloyd’s staging is as sterile as an working room.  

If solely the actors donned colourful blue medical scrubs.

As an alternative, all people right here wears drab, metropolitan black garments. The set of wood seats is dimly lit by eye-straining fluorescents. The forged speaks softly into physique mikes, which provides the play an NPR calmness. All issues thought of, it’s numerous high-minded concepts that by no means cohere right into a riveting complete. 

Even earlier than the play begins, a Nordic chill settles over Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s cla**ic 1879 story of Nora Helmer, a repressed housewife with a harmful secret. 

Jessica Chastain stays mostly seated while she plays Nora Helmer in "A Doll's House" on Broadway.
Jessica Chastain stays largely seated whereas she performs Nora Helmer in “A Doll’s Home” on Broadway.
Photograph credit score: Emilio Madrid

Because the viewers shuffles into its seats on the Hudson Theatre, they gawk and snap photos of Chastain sitting silently in a chair — Marina Abramović type — whereas a turntable rotates the A-lister round. The actress virtually by no means leaves her seat for the complete 100 minutes.

The pre-show spin cycle is definitely a shout-out to Nora’s climactic well-known early-feminist speech wherein she involves the belief she has merely been “performing methods” for her husband Torvald (Arian Moayed), who views his spouse and the mom of his youngsters as little greater than a flesh-and-blood decoration.

So, Chastain turns into a doll for us, too. However that immediate self-awareness introduces one other drawback: the manufacturing jumps the gun on the ending.

There’s hardly any suspense or sense of shock. Fairly, we get an all-around temper of resignation.

Before the play starts, Chastain rotates around the stage during a several-minutes-long pre-show.
Earlier than the play begins, Chastain rotates across the stage for a number of minutes.
Courtesy of A Dollâs Home

Nora’s marriage to Torvald, a proud banker, comes throughout as instantly doomed and loveless, as a result of Chastain’s Nora is very aloof and Moayed, whereas charismatic, performs the hubby as a up to date jerk out of a Judd Apatow film.

The story, subsequently, stays even-keeled with a slow-and-steady tempo, like an animatronic journey known as “It’s A Doll’s World After All.” 

The intrusion of her previous buddy Kristine (Jesmille Darbouze) and the vengeful Krogstad (Okieriete Onaodowan) mixes issues up, in fact, however solely as a lot as this manufacturing of lifeless grey and whispered traces will permit.


Each actors have forceful presences, however are scarily medical right here — Terminators looking for Nora, as a substitute of Sarah Connor.

How can such a static tone presumably work for a play wherein the principle character broadcasts “I’ve modified” ultimately?

It solely sometimes does.

Throughout that last speech, Chastain is at her most alive and thrilling.

Truly, her Nora is a pleasure to look at all through for her aura alone, which has come a good distance from her “Heiress” days. She’s held again in additional methods than one by Lloyd’s route.

The actress' climactic speech is the show's most electric moment, before a misguided ending.
The actress’ climactic speech is the present’s most electrical second, earlier than a misguided ending.
Courtesy of A Dollâs Home

Nonetheless, there’s a spark of intrigue and playfulness to no matter transfer she makes, and as Nora’s burdensome debt involves gentle, Chastain approaches it with quiet, trendy anxiousness.   

She’s additionally gripping when reverse the wonderful Michael Patrick Thornton as Dr. Rank, Nora’s flirty confidant.

He does finest with playwright Amy Herzog’s added colloquial dialogue, and neatly seizes upon the microphone as a chance to be extra pure and susceptible — not one other attractive Siri.    

What may have all people speaking, although, is the ending.

Throughout Lloyd’s tackle the play’s well-known last second, folks seated round me giggled, “ooo”d and “ahh”d as if a chandelier had simply plummeted over the orchestra.

Again in 1879, Nora’s final choice induced a societal uproar, so the director might be attempting to present us the “I Can’t Imagine It’s Not Butter” model of that.

And, by itself, it’s a enjoyable trick.

But, name me quaint, however to take a play a few lady who powerfully realizes she’s not only a plaything for males, however her personal human being, and finish it with a cutesy gimmick is wrongheaded.

It’s one other foolish toy within the dollhouse.    

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