Henrik Ibsen is not the Neil Simon of Norway.  His plays are weighed down with symbolism and secrets, darkness and drama, culture and controversy.  Considered the “father of modern drama,” Ibsen’s playwriting efforts were often thought to be scandalous commentaries on Victorian morality and attacks on the individual as part of the community.

Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven invites you to become reacquainted with Ibsen until Saturday, October 10 and meet “The Master Builder” at the University Theatre, York Street, as translated by Paul Walsh and directed by Evan Yionoulis.

“The Master Builder” is architect Halvard Solness, who although brilliant and successful, has built his career on a shaky foundation, not good for a house or for a person.  He has paid a terrible price for his lofty ambitions, stepping over those under him and squashing the efforts of anyone who threatens his power and prestige.

Solness not only uses blueprints and materials, he uses people.  They are expendable in his rarefied world.  Knut Brovik (Robert Hogan) and his son Ragnar (Slate Holmgren) have been manipulated by Solness as if he is the major puppeteer and they dance to his tune.  So too is his bookkeeper Kaja (Irene Sofia Lucio) whom he teases as if she were his plaything.

David Chandler’s Solness is a hard and focused man who treats his wife Aline (Felicity Jones) with mild contempt.  Aline is an empty shell of a woman who has never recovered from the death of her infant twins years before.  The only time Solness shows any depth of feeling is when the young and vivacious Hilda Wangel, played pertly by Susan Heyward, invades his stultified realm and demands he make good on a promise he made to her a decade ago:  to build her a kingdom fit for a princess.  Is Hilda the muse he has been long seeking?  Is Solness capable of making good on his obligations, to her or to anyone?

Paul Whitaker’s lighting illuminates the variegated skies and raked house set created by Timothy Brown. 

For tickets ($35-67), call the Yale Rep at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org.  Performances are tonight at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Watch how Halvard Solness tries to keep his precarious balance on a tower of his own making that threatens to topple him from his lofty perch.

This will appear in the Middletown Press on October 8.

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