With its complex historical conceits and mind-numbingly wordy script, perhaps the Open Door Theatre company should have left well enough alone.
"Rosmersholm" gains what little dramatic momentum it has from the idea that the past can influence the present and future. In the play, everyone is haunted by his own peculiar past and struggles to find a peaceful life.
Protagonist John Rosmer is not only rebelling against his family's historical occupation as pastor but is still reeling from the mysterious suicide of his wife. Housemate Rebecca West holds scars from her shrouded childhood, and controlling friend Kroll has trouble dealing with the natural changes occurring within his own life.
During the play it is revealed that Rosmer and Rebecca have become involved with political radicals, much to the chagrin of Kroll, whose mission is to squelch the "anarchists." As paths and pasts continue to cross, Rosmer's life turns in on itself. But the drama only ends up frustratingly predictable.
Michael Babbitt does a fine job in his portrayal of Rosmer, a man entrenched in cerebral conflict with his past and present. His leaps in emotion during the final scene especially are subtle and well-timed.
But Dante Walker and Meredith Sause, in the pivotal roles of Kroll and Rebecca respectively, are far too stilted in their performances to give their characters believable weight. Sause's performance seems stiff, and it's difficult to trust her character. And Walker, with his abrupt outbursts, lends Kroll only two emotions: confused anger and outrage.
But the main frustration of "Rosmersholm" is not its actors but its writer. Ibsen's difficult and uninteresting script is much more suited to the page than the stage.
Between the words of his essayed sentences of unnatural dialogue, actors fight for breath. And his use of foreshadowing and reliance on red herrings such as social revolution deplete any emotional resonance the play could have.
It's difficult to comprehend what Ibsen was getting at when he wrote "Rosmersholm." With little heart, suspense or understandable message, Ibsen's mind-boggling play might leave you with little more than a headache.
"Rosmersholm" is being performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 5 p.m. Sunday at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Tickets are $12 for the general public and $10 for seniors, students and ArtsCenter Friends. Contact the ArtsCenter at 929-2787 for more information.
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