The Justice Theater Project’s production of A Doll’s House, Remodeled), written by Aurelia Belfield and JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, based a concept and original idea by Holloway-Burrell, opened this past weekend at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ in Raleigh, NC. It helps a lot to be young (under 40) and tech savvy to fully understand both the language and the social ambience of this play.
We elderfolk tend to be familiar with Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen’s play, A Doll’s House, which caused a huge uproar in 1879 (not that we were there then)! In fact, when it was produced in Germany, the ending had to be changed, much to Ibsen’s chagrin. Ibsen, generally known as “the father of realism,” and a noted founder of Modernism, opened the curtains on the façades that supported social oppression of women. Indeed, we’ve come a long way (Baby!), even since 1920, when U.S. women won the right to vote.
Those familiar with the original play will recognize the first scene immediately. Torvald chides Nora about her Christmas spending, and treats her like a nice child, innocent and obedient. (However, as we progress, we begin to wonder how real it is that a modern woman with an MBA would marry a clueless jerk such as Torvald.) All the old characters are here, except Anne Marie, the Porter, and the children. And, there is also one gender change.
JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell, who co-wrote and directs this show, is the artistic director and founder of Durham’s Black Ops Theatre Company, which produces outside-the-envelope productions, “multifaceted pieces that defy easy and typical categorization.” [From Black Ops Website.] She has adapted a classic, which was forcefully serious, into a modern comedy-drama, with plenty of contemporary laughs in a reality-show format. She has also infused the play with present-day technology. It retains the heart and soul of the Women’s Liberation Movement, while keeping the moments light but powerful.
Lakeisha Coffey carries Nora to heights Ibsen could never have conceived. She commands the stage, all the while conspiring the play’s wonderful end game.
Christine, who had previously had an affair with Niles Krogstad, carries the same history here, although it is a same-sex relationship this time around. She is delightful in the capable performance of Drina Dunlap.
Kyma Lassiter plays Niles Krogstad, an employee of Torvald’s firm, and behind-the-scenes money supplier to Nora, as well as Nora’s very close friend. Lassiter creates a forceful and convincing character for us.
Torvald the overbearing, possessive husband, is portrayed by Germain Choffart, who hits just the right mark for the husband you’re glad you’re not married to. So well-intentioned, so caring, and overseeing, he smothers while mothering.
John Honeycutt, the area’s perennial leading man, takes a smaller role this time. But, as usual, he creates a believable and lovable, sympathetic character.
Helene here may be a combination of Ibsen’s Helene, the household maid, and Anne Marie, the children’s nanny. She is confidently performed by Sarah Koop.
Professor Arthur M. Reese, technical, set, and lighting director and designer, accomplished the very up-to-date elegant, open living space that is also the set of the Reality Show A Doll’s House. It includes a well-equipped bar and a kitchen area and a TV screen that is used to show inner thoughts of various characters, and account for the lights being on high all the time.
Costume designer Brenda L. Hayes outfits the cast in upscale colorful nowadays garb. Nora’s velvet red party dress is truly glamorous.
The Justice Theatre Project once again gives us a thoughtful and enjoyable entertainment with a punch. This show lives up to their mission of “Producing compelling theater experiences that create community dialogue….”
SECOND OPINION: Hillsborough, NC WHUP/104.7 FM interview with co-adapter Aurelia Belfield, conducted by Wayne Leonard for “Lights Up!”: https://whupfm.org/episode/lights-up-101018-permanent-archive/; and Oct. 5th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: https://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/article219371220.html.
The Justice Theater Project presents A DOLL’S HOUSE, REMODELED at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 and 20, 3:30 p.m. Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27, and 3:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Umstead Park United Church of Christ, 8208 Brownleigh Dr., Raleigh, North Carolina 27617.
TICKETS: $22 ($10 high school students and $17 seniors and active-duty military personnel), except $14 per person for groups of 10 or more.
BOX OFFICE: http://www.etix.com/.
INFORMATION: 919-264-7089 or email@example.com.
2018-19 SEASON: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/20182018-season-of-shows/.
NOTE 1: There will be preshow discussions and various other events before various performances. Click here and scroll down for details.
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21st, performance.
Aurelia Belfield (co-adapter) https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=2719323 (Facebook page).
JaMeeka Holloway-Burrell (JTP guest director and co-adapter and founder and director of Black Ops Theatre Company): https://jameekahdirects.wixsite.com/2018-19 (official website) and https://www.facebook.com/jmkastar (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on Amazon.com. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori previously reviewed theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.