A revolutionary production of Ibsen’s classic A DOLL’S HOUSE featuring really tall women and really small men–40-53 inches high to be exact!–recently had its Boston premiere at ARTS EMERSON’s Cutler Majestic. MABOU MINES DOLLHOUSE took the absurdity and inequity of women who are treated as dolls in a society of “small” men–and made it the stuff of comic farce about patriarchy. Though its run has ended, people have been asking me what I thought!
The concept was arresting, potentially revelatory, and even hilarious– I couldn’t wait to see it. But the actual working out of the drama onstage was exhausting, unfunny, and finally— hard to hear. The actors spoke in an odd shrieky/scandinavian accent, rendered even more inaudible by insufficient amplification. The action and much of the acting– seemed forced. The oral sex scenes felt gratuitous, yet brought the audience’s heartiest laughter. What promised to be intellectually provocative had trouble transcending the obvious gimmick of scale.
There was one sublime and redeeming scene in the almost 3 hours long event: the final moments featuring a stripped-down Nora out of her dollhouse and in the balcony– no hair, no clothes, save one long-sleeved glove, a remnant of a costumed identity shed; it was breathtaking. (Her miniature husband should have had equal exposure; why not put his parts on display since that is the apparatus by which he and all men dominate? I wondered at the choice.)
If this were a work in progress, I’d recommend going all the way with the farce; not only cut the actors down to size, but also cut the action in half– and double the speed. Have it all culminate in a wild farcical denouement with the players running about, slamming doors, hiding under tables. Then stop it dead in its tracks for that final sublime scene.