November 3, 1992

Play a glimpse of Victorian era

In the political "Year of the Woman," there is a fascination in looking back at the Victorian era, with its beliefs, about the traditional roles of men and women, husbands and wives.

Henrick Ibsen's classic play "A Doll's House" was first performed in 1878. The current production by the Poway Performing Arts Company (PowPAC) on Cynthia Lane takes the viewer back to a home in Ibson's Norway in that era. Nora and Torvald Helmer are seen with their two children, their servants and friends just before Christmas. Circumstances seem idyllic, with enough money for gifts and entertaining.

But all is not what it seems. Characters and events come back to haunt the couple, and the audience learns that Nora (brilliantly played by Kelly Klaers) is considerably more than the flighty lark envisioned by Torvald (well portrayed by Jerry Rude), who regards his beautiful wife as his "most treasured possession."

He keeps her caged in a psychological doll's house, encouraging her to sing and dance and play games with the children, Emily and Bob (nicely done by Anna and Jeffrey Mower). He thinks of her more as one of them than as an adult with thoughts and worries of her own. He even keeps the only key to the mailbox, with disastrous consequences.

Major ethical questions arise with the arrival of Nora's widowed friend Mrs. Linde (Jocelyn Klein) and questionable acquaintance Nil Krogstad (Tim Olson). Is it better to be obey the letter of the law and lose a loved one or to be technically dishonest to save one? How truthful should one be with a very moralistic spouse?

PowPAC's version of "A Doll's House" provides a dramatic and thought-provoking evening. The cast keeps the audience involved, in spite of some problems with dropped lines during opening week.

Klaers' Nora is passionate in her joy, stunned and devastated in her betrayal. Rude's Torvald is frightening in both actions (watch the chin-chucking) and words.

Olson's Krogstad conveys the motivation for the character's desperate actions. David Y. Smith offers a poignant portrayal of the dying, devoted Dr. Rank, best friend to both husband and wife, and good jobs are done by Shari Lyon as Nanny Anne-Marie and Shelley DeBlois as the maid, Helene.

Costumes are appropriately sumptuous for Nora, both her rust-colored gown and the flamboyant dress for the Tarantella. Warm clothing, including gloves, is welcome with the cold nights faced by the cast.

Sets are well done, with antique reproductions of period pieces lent to PowPAC by Victoria Supply Company in Ramona. Lighting and holiday music add to the ambience.

Directed by Jay Mower, with adaptation by Christopher Hampton, "A Doll's House" is presented at the Golden West Academy at 13634 Cynthia Lane in Poway (one block north of Poway Road, off Midland Road, and on the left). The play continues Friday and Saturday nights, on Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19, with curtain at 8 p.m. Tickets arc for adults, for students and seniors. For reservations, call 679-8085.