Just before rehearsal began for Western Washington University’s current production of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” began, it was announced that it would begin five minutes later than scheduled because the women were having trouble with their corsets. I thought that a perfect metaphor for this play, written in 1879, a time when women were repressed, trapped in roles they may not have wanted. As dramaturge Deb Currier says in the program, “A Doll’s House” was a turning point in the depiction of women on the stage and the view of women in society itself. Timely, yes, because of the recent accusations of sexual harassment, but beyond that, the drama is about complicity, ethics, criminal behavior, and societal values. “Never believe anything anyone tells you,” “It’s the trickery and cunning that corrupts,” “There’s no such thing as an action without consequences,” “It’s a good thing to have a secret up my sleeve” are lines in the play that underpin the motives for the characters.
It’s true that Nora was treated like a plaything by her husband rather than a person with her own needs, and that he calls her in turn a swallow, a dove, a skylark, and that he says “I’m your husband; it’s your job to indulge me.” But more than that, the play is about moral behavior, standing up for what is right, and being true to one’s self. Director Evan Mueller says that one of the challenges of having college students perform the play is that they have not had the life experiences that are called for. But Lauren Senechal, Bailey Ellis, Ryan Han, Aubrey Sage, and Jason Hamann rise to the maturity of characters decades older than they are.
Sacrificing one’s honor, understanding moral decay, and as U.S. Senator Jeff Flake said recently about the current state of affairs in government that, ” the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistorical and, I believe, profoundly misguided.” “A Doll’s House” turned the notion of “a woman’s place” on its heels when it was performed, and it is no less relevant today.
The play runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 26-28, and Nov. 1-3, with a 2 p.m. matinee Nov. 4 at WWU’s Performing Arts Center’s DUG (Underground) Theatre. For tickets, $12 adults, $7 students, call 360-650-6146 or go to tickets.wwu.edu. It’s a small theater, so reservations are encouraged. Next week, Bellingham High School presents the same play, so stay tuned for a Best Bet on that production.