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'A Doll's House' Opens Doors

Colleen O'brien, a student at Fairfax High School, reviews "A Doll House," by Westfield High School.

Nora is a simple, loving housewife and mother of three, perfectly content to be subservient to the will of her husband, Torvald - a puppet on strings.

But what happens when the strings are cut? An outstanding group of Westfield High School actors tackled Ibsen's most famous play, "A Doll's House," detailing the downward Christmastime spiral of Nora Helmer, as a forged loan is discovered and threatens to destroy everything she holds dear.

Nora (Leslie Roth) tells a tale of the consequences she encounters as she is haunted by a loan she has taken out to save her husband's life. Roth moved easily though extensive stage time, from playing the ditzy housewife to making her provocative plea to live her own life free of society's strict mold for women. Roth seemed neither unsettled nor weighed down by her lines but spoke them clearly and believably, letting tangible emotion guide her way.

Jeremy Rommel played Nora's controlling, though devoted, husband, Torvald. He demonstrated the typical male of the time, controlling his wife in all aspects, yet showing how Torvald truly cares for his wife. Rommel allowed his character an incredible range of emotion, from intense rage at the discovery of the loan to weeping despair at Nora's departure, permitting the audience to see he wasn't stuck in society's mold, either.

Nora's woes are exacerbated by an ex-employee of her husband's bank, Nils Krogstad (Jordan Wilson), and are eased by her friend and Krogstad's former love, Mrs. Kristine Linde (Eden Volbrecht). Before Torvald and Nora return home from a holiday party, Krogstad and Kristine exchange angry words, both well-timed and perfectly tense as Kristine battles to keep Nora's life undamaged.

The action takes place on a very eerily cold dollhouse-like set of the Helmer home. Designed by Andrew McLarty and Morgan Krause, it sincerely represents the cold and fake mask with which the Helmers cover their lives. The realistic and well-designed scenery allows for multilevel action.

Throughout the show, lead and ensemble characters craftily blended the amusing and heartwarming scenes of Christmas with friends and the inner drama of the limits of society and trust within a marriage. All performers showed deft comprehension of the underlying meaning of Ibsen's provocative criticism of society's gender roles.

"A Doll's House" raises a critical question: Is it truly better to stay bound by sexually stereotypical identities or to leave it all for your own identity?

In this case, Westfield's cast showed a captivated audience that strict societal and marital control led to Nora's sad departure.

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 18, 2008; 12:58 PM ET
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