A Doll’s House

There’s a newly imagined rendition of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House on Broadway and it absolutely pulsates with submerged urgency and psychological turmoil. Penned by Amy Herzog and directed by Jamie Lloyd, the play is stripped down to essential elements.

Using the raw stage with a series of chairs set on a revolve, the characters sit for much of the action as they rotate into scenes with Nora Helmer, the primary character (played by a luminous Jessica Chastain) standing only when necessary or during moments of walking into a scene for dramatic effect.

As each scene plays out, the emotional tension is palpable, due to the physical trapping of the actors on their respective seats.

As Nora’s domestic situation becomes increasingly untenable, her truth spins out to revelation. A showdown with her husband leads to her final, calm conclusion as the ceiling lights lift and the air in the room expands. Nora makes her final exit from the home to find herself and a new life.

And this particular exit is one of the most exciting I’ve seen in a theatre production and I won’t spoil it here. But the surprise is both fun and applause-inducing.

Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The cast is superb, with a deft handling of their roles and the material. The production elements are both unexpected and modern (symbolic of Henrik Ibsen’s unorthodox attitude). With Ms. Herzog’s stripped down and shortened nature of the piece, what really comes through are Ibsen’s words and perspective on women and their forced roles during his lifetime. Hearing the words without dazzling, elaborate sets, costumes, hair/makeup and special effects gives the play a raw directness that is powerful and causes one to reflect in a more thoughtful and incisive way on the subject matter.

Sometimes, making a point only requires a few simple words.

A Doll’s House runs through June 10.