CHICAGO: It’s nearly impossible to trace the precise origins of any artistic trend or movement. But in 1879, when the door of the Helmer household slammed shut, the noise echoed to the back rows, and Nora ventured on her own into the terrifying freedom of the world before her, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House became a veritable Big Bang in the theatrical world.
The playwright’s depiction of Nora Helmer’s choice for independence over a claustrophobic family life would decades later stand as a benchmark of theatrical realism and proto-feminist characterization. When any piece of art becomes canonical, it is always a challenge to adapt and rework it to bring it under a new light. The Interrobang Theatre Project in Chicago and the playwright Calamity West are collaborating on a premiere adaptation of Ibsen’s landmark play. The Doll’s House Project: Ibsen Is Dead is West’s attempt to not only commemorate Ibsen’s original work but to use it as a stepping-off point to reexamine and dust off its classic themes.
The production is set on Nov. 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell and the Eastern Bloc was opened to the warm capitalist glow of the West. In this Cold War context, West speculates about what happens to the characters after Ibsen’s story ends. “For me, the interesting thing about the original text is what happens when a person seeks independence and liberty,” West said. “What happened to Nora after she left?”
Jim Yost, the play’s director, hopes to present West’s interpretation in an Interrobang fashion. “Interrobang [?!] is an obsolete punctuation mark,” Yost explained. “And it represents the exclamatory questions that you should have when you walk out of the theatre. Theatre should be provocative, not necessarily safe and comfortable.”