Sunday, February 8, 2015

Nora, the Early Feminist, Shines at DTC

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s play about a child bride coming to sudden maturity and walking out on her family, caused quite a stir when it opened in 1879.

A century later, Ingmar Bergman — feeling Ibsen didn’t go far enough — reworked the long-winded script into a taut drama with only five major characters and re-titled it simply Nora.

The Delaware Theatre Company’s production of Bergman’s searing reduction grabs viewers from the outset and never lets go.

The play tells the story of the (seemingly) happy marriage of Thorvald and Nora Helmer. Through exposition we learn the backstory: Thorvald was ill and needed a year in Italy to recover. Nora, ever the good wife, took it upon herself to borrow money from the unscrupulous Krogstad whom Thorvald decides to sack when he gets promoted to bank manager. Krogstad decides to blackmail Nora to keep his position because not only is it amoral for a woman to borrow money (plus her husband abhors debt — an odd position for a banker) but he figures out she forged her father’s signature on the note (dated several days after his death).

When the truth comes out, Thorvald flies into a rage and disowns Nora, bemoaning his fate that now he has to acquiesce to Krogstad’s wishes because of her mistake. But Nora’s friend (Mrs. Linde) talks to Krogstad, who turns out to be her long lost love, and he agrees to tear up the promissory note. Thorvald is relieved and contented to go back to the way things were. But Nora has had an epiphany: She realizes she has been little more than a doll to her husband — a pretty doll that performs tricks — and that they are not partners, because a true husband would have taken the blame and defended his wife’s honor. She decides she has to stop being a doll and learn who she really is and what life has to offer. The play ends with a stunning climax which, for its time, was controversial to say the least.

Bergman’s script focuses on Nora, driving home the divisive (for its time) theme — women’s rights — even though Ibsen claimed he did not seek to promote the women’s rights movement. The play is concise and succinct and the action never abates. Thus the audience feels engrossed in the main story without getting distracted by a welter of subplots.

All five actors worked well as an ensemble. The standout was Kim Carson whose journey from naïf to mature explorer was clear, nuanced and genuine. David Arrow plays a domineering Thorvald who can at the same time be playful and sexy with his wife as he fulfills his role. His anger — laced at times with bewildered incomprehension — is scary but his loss at the end of the play is palpable. Kevin Bergen supplies a death-darkened and doting Dr. Rank; Susan Riley Stevens a world-weary almost embittered Mrs. Linde. Chris Thorn offered an effective Krogstad, ineffably moving at his pivotal points.

Alexis Distler’s set and Esther Arroyo’s costumes were aptly period. Christopher J Bailey’s judicious lighting design supported intensity levels agreeably.

Director Michael Mastro kept the show moving at a brisk pace with a consistent driving energy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

City Theater Company's "Barely Legal" is All About Improv

This review is reposted courtesy of The News Journal. Original article by Holly Quinn published 2/2/14. 

Photo by Joe del Tufo
City Theater Company is celebrating its 21st birthday, and you can join the party at the Black Box at OperaDelaware (still set up Irish Pub style from CTC's recent production of 'James Joyce's The Dead'). 'Barely Legal' is an evening of improv, featuring CTC's own Fearless Improv troupe and a rotation of Philadelphia improv acts, for an unpredictable night of entertainment. READ THE ENTIRE REVIEW >>>

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mélomanie at the DCCA with La Bernardinia Baroque Ensemble

Night Watch by Dan Jackson
A grey Sunday in February brought an overflow crowd to the DuPont 1 Gallery of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts. The big crowd was made to order to create the most wonderful acoustic effect in the small room with the cold hard stone floor, so that Mattheson’s Sonata in G Minor for two harpsichords played by Marcia Kravis and Tracy Richardson sounded clear, crisp, rounded and exciting. Swirls of sounds flew as they traded fast scales and flying double thirds.

After the harpsichord duo, guest artists La Bernadinia Baroque (Donna Fournier, Rainer Beckmann and Marcia Kravis) performed the Ciacona allegro, also a Baroque piece by Benedetto Marcello –Following this, the entire Mélomanie ensemble playing Menuet-Fantaisie – a modern musical interpretation of Baroque music with a recurring motif passed from instrument to instrument, which they had commissioned Anthony Mosakowski to write in 2012. The composer, who introduced the piece, seemed as pleased as the rest of the audience.

The delightful and melodic Allemande and Sarabande, from a different harpsichord duo suite by Mattheson, brought us back to Baroque comfort and lute stops until we were blasted into the 21st century by Tracy Richardson and Rainer Beckman in their interpretation of Liduino Pitombeira’s Sonata for recorder and harpsichord no. 2, Opus 156. Mr. Beckman, who knows Brazil and the composer, introduced the piece and showed that he can make the alto recorder leap forward a few centuries to create a sound reminiscent to honor Stravinsky, Boulez and Bartok.

And, following that tradition of lulling us with Baroque delights and then rocking us out of chairs with modern sounds on Baroque instruments, the two groups played a delightful rendition of a Vivaldi's Concerto in G Minor, RV 107 in which the alto flute (Kim Reighley), soprano and alto recorders (Rainer Beckman) and Baroque violin (Christof Richter) performed as soli and Doug McNames (cello), Donna Fournier (viola da gamba) and Tracy Richardson and Marcia Kravis on harpsichords performed the orchestral continuo.

After the raucous applause for the great sound of the Vivaldi, the larger ensemble played an encore of a Chaconne by Jean Baptiste Lully. The experience was heightened by the surrealistic art of Dan Jackson on display in the gallery – the faces in his works so photographically alive and vivid that they seemed to have been listening as well.