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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

 
It’s been a tough couple of years, a sort of family recession for Nora.  Looking back, it all started when her husband left his job.  He couldn’t find another.  Really there was nothing out there.  Then he got sick, really sick.  There were some major medical bills to be paid.  Nora didn’t know what to do.  She had to find a way to get the money. She had to save her husband.  But how? She couldn’t ask her dad - he was near death too.  Her husband was too proud to borrow the money himself.  What’s a women to do?  All sorts of thoughts raced through Nora’s head.  Finally she found a shady Shylock of sorts who’d lend her the money.  She’d forge her dad’s signature as a cosigner and worry about all the rest later.  What was important was saving her husband.
 
Sounds like an all too topical story doesn’t it.  You can almost imagine the headline.
 
It’ll shock some of you to know this is the back story for Henrik Ibsen’s classic “A Doll’s House.”  Pacific Resident Theater is doing Ingmar Bergman’s stripped down adaptation of Ibsen’s 1871 classic - titled simply “Nora.”
 
Now, typically when you think of “A Doll’s House” you think of the ending of Nora finding her voice and claiming independence.  But what struck me about Bergman’s adaptation, directed at PRT by Dana Jackson, was the backstory.  I’ll confess I’ve always found Ibsen’s setup up a little distant and contrived.    
 
Sometimes the times speak to a play as much as a play speaks to the times.  Having heard the tragic tales of this great recession we’re all living through, suddenly Nora’s dilemma seemed not only plausible but immediate.  It doesn’t hurt that Bergman’s adaptation cuts the roles of the family servants.  Sure it still seems odd, especially against the backdrop of robo-signers and $8 billion foreclosure settlements, that such a scandal could come from a forged loan that’s being paid off - nonetheless this production of “Nora” helped me understand the beginning of the play in a way I never had.  Nora’s decision to borrow the money felt noble not capricious.
 
Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a modern update.  We’re still in 1871 with victorian costumes and the cast at PRT treats this very much like a period piece - perhaps too much so.  Bergman’s adaptation streamlines the plot down to just under two hours.  In addition to the servants, he’s also cut Nora’s children.  Who, while they don’t have any formal lines in the original, certainly affect how you think of Nora’s exit at the end. 
 
Highlighted are the sexual politics between Nora and her husband.  The quid pro quo of their relationship is all too clear.  To make sure we get it, the ultimate scene begins with husband and wife naked in bed.  Here’s where I wished PRT’s production had 
taken Bergman’s cue and stripped away the period style along with the clothing.
 
After all, like financial crisis, there’s something timeless about two naked people struggling to discover exactly what ‘marriage’ means.
 
“Nora” plays at the Pacific Resident Theater in Venice through
 
This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

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