Emily Perkins' A Doll's House is to Henrik Ibsen's original what Clueless is to Jane Austen's Emma: it's a wonderfully assured, loose adaptation filled with sharp observations about a contemporary tribe.
Locations aren't specified in this drawing-room drama but Perkins' subjects have the Auckland obsession with property and anxiety about precarious success.
The central couple make things hard for themselves: Nora and Theo live off-grid, eschew sugar and have kids (whose presence, both on and offstage, nicely pervades the action). And both spouses have secrets. Convincingly, it's this stew of tensions that complicates their lives, rather than any one sole factor.
While late revelations feel a little rushed, the dialogue is quotable and natural, crass where appropriate and very believable. Rooftop gardens are "nice-to-haves" and buying a house is joining the "mortgage death group".
Theo " from the Greek for "God" " is well named by Perkins; Nora worships him, and prays to him for money. The performances are equally easy and natural " impressively so as director Colin McColl emphasises physical affection. Laurel Devenie, onstage for the whole 100 minutes as Nora, carries the play beautifully, and piercing-eyed Damien Avery as Theo is a good match.
Paul Glover is excellent as Aidan, an overbearing guy who doesn't know why he can't keep friends. Nicole Kawana is strong as the only sympathetic character while Peter Elliott is underused as the underwritten Gerry.
Glimpses of Nora tidying away scraps of colour in the otherwise monochromatic show were an expressive touch. But designer Tony Rabbit often repeats one motif ad infinitum on his Auckland Theatre Company sets (chopped wood for The Pohutukawa Tree; ladders for On the Upside Down of the World), and this time, the actors are knee-deep in panda bears. Synthetic mass-produced pandas are out-of-place in the home of neo-hippies.
This clever, interesting adaptation has a life of its own and should be called something else. We're Out of Stevia, perhaps. There's little sweetness left at the end.
Where: Maidment Theatre, Alfred St
When: To May 23