Too Contemporary or Just Right?
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
BOB: Yale Rep is presenting an interesting production of Ibsen’s The Master Builder. I particularly liked the way they structured the stage to get the effect of the height and the indoor quality that it requires. I thought the acting was very good. I enjoyed this very much.
KAREN: I did not enjoy this production of Master Builder. I think it starts first with the new adaptation by Paul Walsh. I did not go back and read my copy of any older translation but this at two hours is a much shorter production.
BOB: There must have been some things left out, but I did look at an earlier version and it seemed to be very close to them.
KAREN: The thing that bothered me is that making it very contemporary language is incongruous with the time period in which the play is set. It’s set in the later 1800s. An architect, Halvard Solness, is successful; he’s the master builder in his town. He is also getting older, he knows he has achieved his success by stepping on other people, and he is frightened to death that the younger generation is coming up and will knock him off his post. And enters a young girl, who claims that ten years earlier, he promised to make her a princess. Is she his new muse or his temptress or the devil?
BOB: She’s Hilda Wangel, played by Susan Heywood.
KAREN: I didn’t hate it.
BOB: I liked it very much. It moved at a good pace and it made clear some of the issues. Some of the symbolism wasn’t as pronounced as it should have been. There is great deal of symbolism in Ibsen – especially his later plays like The Master Builder. Some of it was missing. I thought the confrontations between the characters. The doctor sort of faded into the woodwork.
KAREN: I’ve seen better productions of The Master Builder.
BOB: Including one in Oslo, Norway.
This review aired on WHNU- 88.7 FM and www.wnhu.net.