When the lights come up for this show’s first scene, there’s a glimmering Christmas tree onstage. And the opening lines are about shopping.
Nora: Come in here, Thomas, I want to show you what I bought.
Thomas: What did you buy? More gifts? That’s my little spendthrift, throwing away money again.
Nora: Yes, but this year we can let ourselves go a little, can’t we? We don’t have to be quite so careful…
Thomas: Still, we can’t be reckless…
But don’t be fooled by this idyllic introduction. This husband constantly belittles his wife – dismissing her as “helpless” or “my little kitten.” The irony is that when he came home shell-shocked from World War II, she was the one who pulled him out of his almost catatonic funk by dragging him to exotic Havana, where he gradually recovered. To pay for the trip, she quietly borrowed a large sum from a dubious individual.
She never told her husband. But now the debt is due, and the lender is making demands. The wife finally confides in a friend, sort of.
Nora: When you pay off your debt, you get your bond back, right?
Christine: Yes, generally.
Nora: And you can tear it to a hundred thousand pieces, burn it as if it never existed.
Christine: Nora, there is something you’re not telling me.
Nora: (pause). I don’t know what you mean.
Being honest and truthful – even with yourself – is very difficult for everyone in this play. And when everything comes out in the volcanic finale, we witness the terrifying vision of a marriage shattering before our eyes.
Thomas: Petty. You think I’m petty?
Nora: No, I don’t. Just the opposite.
Thomas: You think it’s petty of me not to want a daily reminder of… No. I’m going to put an end of this right now.
Nora: What are you going to do?
Thomas: Settle it.
Actress Brittni Barger gives a powerful performance as the increasingly desperate wife, who famously declares her independence at the end. And director Janis Stevens skillfully escalates the growing nervous tension to a fever pitch. In this new adaptation, the characters in this venerable play remind you all too much of folks you’ve seen in real life, today.
The Capital Stage production of “A Doll’s House” continues through November 22.