Open Door Theatre co-founder Rob Kramer staged an intriguing production of Rosmersholm Sept. 4-22 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Kramer used a new translation of this lesser work by late 19th-century and early 20th-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (A Doll’s House, Ghosts, and Hedda Gabler).
Brian Johnston, whose translation of Ghosts (with Rick Davis) provided the script for Open Door’s 1999 production of that Ibsen masterpiece, does a nice job of rendering Rosmersholm in English. But Johnston cannot disguise the play’s major drawback.
Rosmersholm is a talky play, much too talky for many of us. And Ibsen handled his countrymen’s sexual repression and rebellion against the established church and other pillars of the conservative status quo better in other plays.
Nevertheless, the Open Door rendition of Rosmersholm featured some fine acting and sure-handed direction from Rob Kramer. Open Door co-founder and artistic director Michael Babbitt put the requisite angst into his impersonation of recent widower John Rosmer; and Meredith Sause was positively vixenish as Rebecca, the treacherous liberal-minded house guest who subtly separates Rosmer from his former friends while she vigorously attacks his ultra-conservative core beliefs.
Dante Walker was highly effective as Kroll, Rosmer’s perplexed former brother-in-law and best friend, and Lenore Field was charming as Mrs. Helseth the housekeeper. Kevin Poole was excellent as Mortensgaard the local liberal firebrand, and Bob Barr gave a crusty characterization of Rosmer’s itinerant boyhood teacher Brendel.
Rosmersholm also benefited from a spare set design that merely suggested the opulence of the title mansion. Costume designer Melanie Hayes and lighting designer Steve Dubay also contributed to the visual appeal of this artfully acted and directed production of this turgid drama about friendship and betrayal, conformity and rebellion, in 19th century Norway.