Watching A Doll’s House at GCC

Written by Finch Pierson (He/they)

I watched A Doll’s House on the second Friday in which it was produced at Grove City College. Overall, I enjoyed the play, and it was interesting to witness the impact it had on the others in attendance. Putting the play in arena style was an interesting choice and from what I heard from others who were able to see the play multiple times, the different places in the theater gave a different experience.

I thought the use of multiple different sources and types of light gave an interesting effect to the stage. The blue lights on the steps were beautiful and gave the edges of the stage a peculiar and icy look. The added use of lamps, a candle, and a chandelier as well as overhead lights, gave the room a strange warmth to combat the blue. The frozen appearance of the steps contrasted the warm lights that fell upon the stage and gave a feeling of separation. The relative darkness in the rest of the theater made the stage feel even more confined and constrained until it felt like it was choking the characters, mainly Nora.

I found the omission of the children to be interesting. The children that Nora left behind are often a source of debate among viewers are they are seen by some as something that should have kept Nora from leaving, though many others disagree on this. I heard that there were, even still are, arguments after the play over whether or not she should have left the abusive relationship. But I didn’t witness or hear any of these directly.

I believe that Nora was right in leaving for many reasons. No one is obligated to stay in an abusive relationship and shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for leaving one. I have known many people who were in abusive and terrible relationships who decided to stay instead. These people all soon began to take out their anger on others, namely the kids.  A parent staying doesn’t instantly mean a better life for the kids. Their lives could be better with only one parent or with a new parent, in a new home, with a new family, etc.

I think this relates to the idea people seem to have, that children need a man and woman as parents to be okay. They argue that Nora was depriving them of something necessary to them, that by leaving she took away the only presence of femininity in their lives. I would say that she left the children well in the care of the maid who raised her. Regardless though, this idea that a child needs both a mother and a father, doesn’t hold true, people who have LGBTQ+ parents and who live in a single parent household can also grow up healthily and happily.

A Doll’s House is still a very influential play and is often referenced in various media. In the popular series BoJack Horseman, A Doll’s House is referenced as a play that deeply affected the character, Beatrice Horseman. Beatrice was character who felt trapped in a situation very similar to Nora’s. This comment in the show, when understood through the lens of knowledge of Ibsen’s work, added to the depth of the character of Beatrice Horseman. “Last night she went to see A Doll’s House with a couple of girlfriends, and now she had ideas” is how her husband talks about it, he then mentioned how she “locked herself in the bedroom to weep… loudly” (“Free Churro” BoJack Horseman). Knowing the context of the play allows for a better understanding of Beatrice and makes it easier to appreciate her character. Later in this same show the titular character is shown to be directing a production of Hedda Gabler in prison. The importance of Ibsen’s works within the Horseman family adds to their characters only when one understands these plays. They appear throughout books and songs. The influence of Ibsen’s works is present across many forms of media. Interestingly enough, several characters in the series BoJack Horseman demonstrate, to some extent, what could have happened if Nora had stayed. Beatrice Horseman stayed and ended up taking out her frustration on her son BoJack. Beatrice’s mother Honey also stayed in a bad marriage and was rewarded for it by being lobotomized after having a breakdown. After this Honey was no longer fully able to remember Beatrice. The trauma caused by this, by someone not leaving or feeling like they couldn’t escape, bled down onto Beatrice. This extended the family trauma and led the cycles of abuse to continue.

Nora helps people to understand themselves by being a relatable character. And she helps people to understand other, whether those others be actual people or just characters. It helped me understand myself and to some extent others as well. The play can be used as a format for understanding many characters and situations. I personally related to the play and to Nora when I read it (and still do). It affected me in that it forced me to process some traumatic memories and events in my past. The play brought forth many emotions and memories until it left a lingering effect on me. While watching the play at GCC I was able to witness others reacting to the play for the first time.

Overall, I feel that the production at GCC did justice to the original play. While using an alternate version to omit the children, it had a different effect than it could have. Many people get hung up on the idea of the children and removing them from view really allowed the audience to focus more on Nora. And though it still led to intense debate, it seemingly made the debate more balanced. The choices of lighting and costumes suited the play well and the feeling of being in the house but in the shadowy outside as well is a strange feeling. The actors played their roles incredibly well and moved naturally in their costumes that I would have expected people to struggle to navigate in. The music seemed to fit the themes of the play well and fit with the atmosphere and made some note of the play’s Norwegian setting. The props and set were all stunning. The only complaint I would have would be the audience opening the outside doors broke the sense of reality of the play.

Works Cited

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Directed by Betsy Craig, Grove City College Theater Program, 2022, The Little Theater, Grove City.

“Free Churro.” BoJack Horseman, written by Raphael Bob-Waksberg, directed by Amy Winfrey, Netflix, 14, September, 2018.

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