A Dolls House is a HIT — (check out Doak Bloss’s unsolicited and enthusiastic Facebook review below.) Three more shows left: 8pm Fri/Sat and 2pm Sunday.
Go to http://riverwalktheatre.com and click the “buy tickets” link to go to showtix4u with your credit card. Showtix will send an email with your link to watch at your specified time.
NOTE: Riverwalk Manager Mike is able to help those of you with season coupons or promo tickets. Send him an email with your request mailto:email@example.com and he will make the reservation for you and email back a link/passcode for you to watch from your computer. Mike will monitor these emails even after office hours.
If you need help with the website and want to use your credit card, you must call Mike during office hours (10-2 Mon-Fri) do NOT email your credit card number.
Mike is excited to be actively “making reservations” again!
I entered the audience for Riverwalk’s production of “A Doll’s House” with unreasonably high expectations. I blame the Channel 10 news report for this, because it did a great job of describing the technical and design innovations Brian Farnham had devised in order to overcome the many limitations of watching a play recorded on Zoom. I was led to believe that this time we would get something more than forward-staring heads reciting lines in little boxes, popping in and out but clearly not relating to each other in any real way and certainly not connecting to an audience. The WLNS story sounded too optimistic to be true; and I have become accustomed to being disappointed by any new approaches people have tried to outsmart the pandemic unless they had a huge budget to back it up.
Throughout my viewing of the matinee on Sunday, “A Doll’s House” filled me with awe, hope, and deep appreciation for what Brian and his collaborators have pulled off. It was all there as I was told it would be. Actors genuinely related to each other as if they were in the same room even though they were in separate boxes. Meticulous set design and camera placement allowed items in one box to cross into the other, and the passing of props across an unseen place just below where the two boxes come together. The boxes often come together seamlessly, by the way. Two squares looked like one big rectangle, especially when the Helmers’ unitive Christmas tree and its perfectly matched ornamental strands are in the frame(s).
All that is very good, and delightful to behold in and of itself, but such cleverness could hardly sustain a two-hour production viewed on a laptop. For that you need some seriously good acting—actors who prepare and analyze and choose and commit, something that, let’s be honest, you don’t get all that often in community theatre. You do, here. Most importantly, you get Rachel Daugherty as the complicated Nora, struggling to keep her bearings and her standing in a ruthlessly disempowering social structure for women. Ibsen’s battlegrounds are usually very genteel and proper on the surface, with the unspoken warfare raging in the minds of his protagonist and the characters whose own self-interests threaten to undo her. Watching Daugherty’s seemingly placid face thrash about in search of an escape from her predicament is like admiring a beautiful pocket watch but sensing the tremble of delicate gears going terribly awry just beneath. And as is so often the case—not to take anything away from the hard work of everyone else in the cast (and especially Joe Clark as Nora’s biggest threat)—when you have a gifted, disciplined actor in the center of a play like this, everyone steps up their game to rise to the occasion.
And what an occasion! I’ve read and seen “A Doll’s House” before, but I often get its plot confused with Ibsen’s other seminal feminist work, “Hedda Gabler,” which is my only excuse for not being certain what Nora’s fate would be. And I won’t spoil it here, except to say that it left me feeling very satisfied. And happy. And hopeful. If not for Nora, then for my theatre community, which I think has turned a corner in its battle with the pandemic thanks to this production.
Brian Farnham’s notion of conceptually placing the audience in the center of the room in which the story unfolds (yes, cue that “Hamilton” number if your head if you must) is responsible for the production’s other breakthrough in keeping us engaged while watching a little computer screen instead of breathing and seeing the respiration and aspiration and desperation of the characters in the flesh. Frankly, I’m so impressed by this idea that I don’t really know how to talk about it. It makes such sense, but in the way that brilliant ideas always seem obvious once someone else has conceived them and demonstrated that they work. We are in the room with Nora and her troublesome visitors. It’s not like being in a theatre, but it is also not like watching a film of a play. It’s like having a privileged view of intensely intimate transactions. It’s something new, and you really must see it to appreciate it.
The work of the designers and technical wizards who helped pull this off also have to be mentioned. I don’t usually think or care that much about costumes (my shortcoming), but in this case Amanda Macomber’s creations lend richness and authenticity to the 19th century Norwegian sitting room simply but effectively decked out (I assume) by the most resourceful and dedicated stage manager our community has to offer, the indispensable Michele Booher-Purosky.
And--lest I forget--the man who managed to stitch all the little pieces of this production into the whole that we get to enjoy was of course Matt Ottinger.
So. I think that’s all I have to say, and I regret that I took so many words to say it. But I have a motivation here… I WANT YOU TO SEE THIS PRODUCTION. It is available for viewing three more times this weekend, Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00. I don’t think it can sell out, but buy your ticket now anyway just so that you’ve committed the $20 and will be fully motivated to park yourself in front of your phone or computer or Ipad at the appointed hour. You don’t get to hang onto it and watch it whenever you want as you would any of those movies and TV shows on your watch list. The sense of occasion is real: you must sit down and watch it as you would a live performance, with unseen others across the community. Revel in that: the community you’re part of, partaking this nourishing meal together. It is a community that has willed one of our greatest joys—well-done theatre—back into existence. I’m confident that you, like I, will be left hungry for what may come next.
NOTE: Doak has recorded a new “House Left” dialogue with the cast and designers which he will put on Youtube later today. Except it’s called “Light’s Up” now. You should probably watch it AFTER they see the play. Go to Youtube.com and search "Doak Bloss" for his lineup of his discussions and trivia games.
It’s a busy theatre weekend - almost like the old days that gave GLUT the meaning in its acronym. Besides A DOLL’S HOUSE, we have:
All of us Express Children’s Theatre presents The Prince and the Pauper https://www.facebook.com/events/713333536021944
Evolve Theatrics presents Standing on Ceremony, the Gay Marriage plays - Tickets are $15 each, with only a single ticket needed for households watching the performance on the same device. visit http://www.evolvetheatrics.com, click on 20/21 Season and click on the ticket link.
MSU Freshman Showcase: Pandemic’dwill premiere its first two episodes on Facebook with a free, live viewing party on Friday, February 12, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. To join the viewing party, visit https://www.facebook.com/MichiganStateTheatre. Following the premiere, episodes will be available for viewing on demand at http://www.theatre.msu.edu/pandemic.