Richard, Karen, Bruce, and I saw this Ibsen play at BAM on 4/10.  It's a production from London starring Lesley Manville, who won the Olivier (the English version of the Tony) for this production - - I've seen her in a few Mike Leigh movies, so I was all hopped up to see her in this show. Plus I'd heard about the play for years, but had never read it or seen it.

 

This is Ibsen's follow-up to *A Doll's House*.  He caused a scandal with that play, which ends with his middle-class heroine walking out on her husband and two children, "the door slam heard 'round the world”, they called it.  With *Ghosts*, it's like he was throwing down the gauntlet and saying, "You thought THAT was bad?"  He gives us a seven-layer salad of hot-button topics: incest, syphilis, prostitution, arson, euthanasia, criticism of the church, and general debauchery!  Quite the piquant melange for 1881.  All of this topped off with something they hadn't even diagnosed in the 19th century, seasonal affective disorder!  I turned to Bruce when the show was over and said, "Jesus, I'm glad my people made it out of Norway."

 

It seems like every production of an Ibsen play has to do something with the script, with varying results.  This production was a total success with their choice: they pared the play down to ninety minutes with no intermission.  There was no flab left on that show, and the well-mannered, repressed characters at the start of the show rode the toboggan all the way to the crazed, uncorsetted finish.  It was very exciting, Manville taking the highest honors in the role of the mother.  The success of the show was greatly aided by the design: the set and costume design were generally conservative and traditional, but the use of set (especially making the walls transparent) and the expressionist lighting heightened the drama, turned the melodrama into something visceral and disturbing.

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