A LITERAL DOLL HOUSE (Macho Goat): 2019 Fringe review

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Arielle Silk in A LITERAL DOLL HOUSE. Photo by Michelle Nugent.

Things are perhaps made a little too, well, literal in A Literal Doll House, staged by MACHO GOAT in “a literal apartment.”

Arielle Silk had the monumental task of portraying all the characters in the Ibsen classic as a little girl playing with dolls. This device made melodramatic and (surprisingly) funny work with the three-act drama. It also had the surprising effect of handing more control to Nora. It became abundantly clear that while Nora is held back by the social norms and laws of her time and place, she adeptly uses her appearance to her advantage. Nora’s power (at least in the first two acts) comes from the fact that no one expects anything from her. The audience begins to wonder: Is she playing with dolls or is she controlling her own narrative?

Throughout the play, the cramped space is invaded by an older gentleman (Tim Irvine) from behind a curtain in the tight apartment. He watches her, drinks from a flask, and generally menaces. His presence serves to remind the audience about Nora’s status as an infantilized second-class citizen. In the last scene when he becomes Torvald his patriarchal gaze is transformed into failed attempts at control. While Ibsen’s central metaphor was certainly written to be played with a slighter hand, some fun and many revelations came with this fringey adaptation of A Doll’s House.

[247 South Juniper Street] September 5–22, 2019; fringearts.com/event/a-literal-doll-house

Read Joshua Herren’s full review essay on the 2019 Fringe Festival

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About the author

Joshua Herren

Josh Herren is a writer and third-grade teacher living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Josh has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated summa cum laude in history (American concentration) and art history, with a minor in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. His thesis "Furious Acts: AIDS and the Art(s) of Activism, 1985–1993" won the Rose Award for Outstanding Thesis. Josh is passionate about education, theater, and convincing others that Philadelphia is the greatest city on earth.