February 28, 2010

Review: Lady from the Sea

Terrifying. Fascinating. Thrilling.

These were the words on the tips of our tongues as we emerged from the Moore Theater Friday night, an audience wowed by the dramatic genius of Ibsen's Lady from the Sea. Two and a half hours earlier, we'd strolled into the theater chatting of classwork, finals, how to hide the flowers we'd brought for the cast members. We walked out just as talkative- but with many more superlatives dancing from our mouths.

Did you see- did you hear? Ellida's eyes- Bollette's tears- Lyngstrand's coughs and awkward flowers. Arnholm's "Hm," German tourists, Ballested's horn, Wangel's despair. Did you hear- did you see? The ensemble, the lighting, the music, the language- the heart-wrenching moments and the dark laughs we shared! What happened in that theater? What brought us so close to Ibsen, to the sea?

There are many feet at which to lay the credit for this brilliance; we'll start center stage. Willa Johann '10 starred as Ellida Wangel, the Lady from the Sea, bringing the audience to its figurative knees as she battled the bonds that held her to the sea- and fought also the ties that kept her away from its mysteries. George Neptune '10 as her husband Dr. Wangel was lost in frustration as he watched his wife descend into this strange confusion, an illness all of his medicinal arts could not begin to cure. The family was completed (or rather left artfully separate) with the entrance of Bolette (Talene Monahon '13) and Hilde (Jenny Lamb '13), Dr. Wangel's daughters from his first marriage, each a complex and beautifully acted character in her own right. Bolette's admonishments, desires, and ideas of responsibility and Hilde's morbidly melodramatic sense of humor showcased both actresses' clear natural talent.

Enter Jay Ben Markson '10 as Mr. Arnholm, Bolette's "old" tutor, bringing more than thoughts of tutoring to the stage (and quite a lot of hair gel, as it turns out). His complicated romantic endeavors and well-wrought facial expressions contributed nicely to the piecing of Ibsen's dramatic jigsaw. In brilliant juxtaposition we found David Mavricos '10 as the younger Mr. Lyngstrand, a sculptor with a weakness in his chest and a self-assurance in his art that kept the audience shaking its head at the black irony inherent in his character.

And then- there was the Stranger. Eric Wu '13 brought mystery and power to the stage as Ellida's first dark love. His threatening air and rather impressive jump over the garden fence brought a striking arcane note to the production. Also definitely worth a credit was Jonathan Gunson '10 as Ballested, an intriguingly humorous Jack of all trades who also managed to help with some foreshadowing of Ellida's strange condition.

The production contained a few wonderfully refreshing choices that enlivened Ibsen's script. The ensemble (Torrey Barrett '13, Tomo Berry '12, Jocelyn Duford '11, William Hernandez '13, Grace Kouba '13, Liz Neill '13, and Sophie Palitz '13) built the marine theme to its eventual climax with graceful choreography and surprisingly smooth changes of set, made more impressive if one realizes that the women at least did it all wearing corsets and heels. Also very impressive were the lighting and set, to the credit of Dan Kotlowitz and Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili, respectively, and both masterfully fitted to the theme, evoking thoughts of the sea even before the first words were spoken.

These seven showings of Lady also contained a musical surprise- the talents of composer and sound designer Roy Prendergast, best known (to us students at least) for his film credits, including Shakespeare in Love and Caddyshack. Especially appreciable was the music's inclusion of both drama and humor- to tell the truth, it reminded one of the changeable nature of the sea (remarkably appropriate, I'd say).

Deep bows and curtsies are of course due to the director, Jamie Horton, and Laurie Churba Kohn, the costume designer. The creative genius of both is more than evident!

And with that, I'll end my song of praise. Bravo and brava to all; resoundingly, solidly, and absolutely, Lady was a great success.

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