Dollhouse: Theater Spotlight

The tone of Rebecca Gilman's update of Ibsen is set from the get-go, when Nora (Sarah Agnew) arrives home at her impeccable pad with an outsized armload of Christmas presents. Her banker husband, Terry (Peter Christian Hansen), begins to complain, but Nora has a rejoinder: She cleaned out the store shelves, yes, but she did so at the relative bargain oasis of Target (the hometown crowd laughs knowingly). Lest we think the ditzy free-spirit Nora lives unchecked, however, we see signs of Terry's control—he sits her down and goes over every receipt, and when he leaves the room she sneaks a truffle (forbidden, in order that she not gain weight). It's as true now as it was in Ibsen's time that, in a marriage devoted to gleaming surfaces and internal pressures, something's going to give, and it does. First there's Terry's pal Pete (Matt Guidry), who gazes on Nora with more than friendly interest. Then there's old college chum Raj (Bhavesh Patel), who's in money trouble on a stem-cell start-up and who has Nora by the throat based on a loan he gave her a couple of years before. What follows is a web of blackmail and stomach-churning tension, though somehow much of the suspense stays at arm's length. The points of intersection between Dollhouse and A Doll's House are certainly there (in abundance), but the lack of weight in this narrative can be pinned on an inescapable sense that everyone is pretty much getting what they deserve (Nora's friend Kristine, played by Norah Long, certainly seems to agree). Agnew locates Nora's steel far too late; until then, it's hard to believe that her machinations were little more than seat-of-the-pants weakness. Hansen, for his part, seems unwilling to dig into the darker textures of his shallow, controlling wannabe fat cat, until the crucial scene when Terry reveals his true nature and it seems his marriage has burned to ashes. Gilman does an end-around on Ibsen's original ending, and it just about salvages things: In bringing this story of marital hell into the present day, complacency, greed, and protracted revenge feel like the only reasonable conclusion. $24-$60. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays; Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis; 612.377.2224. Through July 11

 
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