How do you tackle one of the most iconic plays of all time?
Nora is a stark, new vision of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, the groundbreaking play about one woman’s attempt to assert her own identity. Famed director Ingmar Bergman commissioned this adaptation that intensifies the intimacy of the character’s psychological portraits. We spoke with director and Associate Professor Antonio Ocampo-Guzman, cast member Evelyne Cardella ’17, playing the title character Nora, and Sam Mulcahy ’19, playing her husband Torvald.
“This exquisite adaptation of the seminal play by Ibsen, gives us the opportunity to look very deeply at the fascinating relationships at the heart of the story,” says Antonio. “Long hailed as a ‘feminist’ play, Ibsen’s Nora – through the lens of Ingmar Bergman – appears to me more as a ‘humanistic’ play. What is the true nature of a marriage? Can we actually know our spouses if we don’t know ourselves?”
Evelyne adds, “In a lot of ways, it’s about feminism, which hits particularly hard when you realize the original A Doll’s House was written in the 1800s and presents an issue that women still face today. But it’s about more than just feminism. Nora isn’t the only one who changes in this play; it’s about marriage and relationships and the importance of communication and mutual respect within them, and these are important steps on the way to equality.”
“This play is [also] about … the idea that we all tell lies,” adds Sam. “Lies to strangers, to our friends and family, but most of all lies to ourselves. We live in a society where it has become increasingly easy to surround oneself with people who will reinforce your own opinions, which is what we do when we know we’re lying to ourselves. We desperately look to others to validate our opinions. The characters in this play are constantly attempting to prove they’re right to others, but most of all to themselves.”
Talking about the rehearsal process, Sam reports, “Going into the process I found it challenging reading a character so thoroughly despicable. I became a little too fixated on his flaws and started over-playing them, which in turn made him even more unforgivable. A major challenge I’ve faced has been making Torvald a sympathetic character. If the audience hates him right from the start then I think a large part of the message is lost.”
Evelyne adds, “The most rewarding part of this process, to me, is what Antonio calls the pinball machine. In this case, Nora is the pinball. It certainly feels that way when I’m thrown from scene to scene, bouncing between the agendas of the other characters. It allows me to reach new levels of energy and to enter each moment as it comes instead of getting trapped in my awareness of the play as an actor. It’s an entirely different experience from plays in which I have time backstage in between scenes.”
See for yourself – Nora opens Wednesday, February 15 and runs through Sunday, February 19. Tickets are available online at at mytickets.northeastern.edu or through myNEU.
Photography by Grant Terzakis.