The Lady From The Sea Moral Message on the Power to Choose is sound but sluggish.

The Lady From The Sea Moral Message on the Power to Choose is sound but sluggish.

Do I matter? And what is the purpose of my life, are questions we have all asked ourselves. But what does it mean to be free? 

These questions have rattled within the minds of humanity since the time of Adam and Eve. Court Theatre continues its 2021/22 season with The Lady from the Seaby Henrik Ibsen, translated by Richard Nelson, and directed by Shana Cooper. 

Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright and theatre director, starts The Lady From The Sea, using a character similar to himself by introducing us to Ballested, an immigrant who came to the small fjord town in Northern Norway after his traveling theater company disbanded. Ballested, who wears a plethora of heads to help make ends meet, is finishing up a painting when a young lad named Lyngstrand strolls into the garden. 

He meets the daughters of Dr. Wangel, Bolette, an intellectual young woman who plays the role of a mother to her younger sister Hilda after her mother passed. Bolette longs to see the world but fears she will never leave the long, narrow, deep inlet between high cliffs called home, as she needs to care for her father and sister. Hilda is the rambunctious younger sister hiding her feelings of needing a mother’s love lashes out by looking for ways to rebuke her stepmother, Ellida, using a celebration of her deceased mother’s birthday as one of her ways to demonstrate her displeasures. 

However, Ibsen centers The Lady From the Sea around Ellida, a lighthouse-keeper’s daughter. Ellida, who grew up loving the open Sea, married Edvard Wangel, a doctor whose wife passed, leaving him with two daughters (Bolette and Hilde). 

While married, they have a child, who dies. Wangel believes Ellida spiraled into depression, causing issues within their marriage, and asked an old friend of Ellida, Arnholm, to return to aid in her recovery. However, Arnholm, who was also the former tutor of Bolette, believes the letter sent for him to return is due to a fixation Bolette has for him, not realizing Wangel has learned Arnholm was a rejected lover who once proposed to Ellida. But Ellida’s illness has nothing to do with Wangel or Arnholm but a demonic haunting of a stranger from the past. 

A stranger who returns with a proposition. The freedom to choose between a lost love from the past. Or the love she lost because of her past. 

Considered one of the founders of modernism in theatre and the father of realism, Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, written in 1888, was his firstof several mystical, psychological dramas.

The Lady From the Sea touched on many of the cultural views of the 1800s when Ibsen wrote this play, where women’s ideological place, her thoughts, dreams, and admiration should center around their husbands or the men’s plans, ideas and pursuits. It also hinted that the woman had to financially lean on the man’s kindness to have any possibilities of survival. Written during the Women’s Rights Movement era, many could have seen The Lady From the Sea as a groundbreaking pattern for a women’s right to choose, which is Ibsen’s primary focal point in this playwright’s five-act play. 

Though Ibsen is considered one of the most influential playwrights of his time, The Lady From The Sea first hour and thirty minutes can cure your insomnia. Its lethargic pace, which Ibsen may have deliberately intended, as he enjoyed the development of humanizing the character, seems to have confused the audience, not understanding its direction. 

I was one of the few who previously saw the adaptation, so I knew its ending, which indeed held the audience’s attention. However, I believe a better translation of The Lady From The Sea is using the method of reverse chronology storytelling (RCS), whereby it hints throughout the play the ending. RCS would intrigue its audience; rather than this adapted from new translation which slowly draws them into a slow hypnotic sleep.    

The cast Chaon Cross (Ellida), Gregory Linington (Dr. Wangel), Tanya Thai McBride (Bolette), Angela Morris (Hilda), Will Mobley (Lyngstrand), Samuel Taylor (Arnholm), Dexter Zollicoffer (Ballested), and Kelli Simpkins (The Stranger) did their best to bring out this psychological battle for freedom. And playwright Richard Nelson and director Shana Cooper’s desire to bring out Ibsen’s passion for having the audience feel the humanism of real people being in front of you was admirable. Still, unfortunately, The Lady From The Sea falls short of accomplishing a compelling message where humans have the right to choose freedom over war. 

Назавжди Україна (Forever Ukraine)

In the end, Ellida’s husband releases her from their vows. She is free to choose and makes a decision that liberates her from the lamented anguish that plagued her soul. But Bolette is captured by the kindness of men to achieve her goals.

Let’s Play Somewhat Recommends The Lady From The Sea. 

Court Theatre

The Lady from The Sea

Written by Henrik Ibsen

Adapted From a New Translation By Richard Nelson

Directed by Shana Cooper

Now Running through March 27, 2022

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