Rosmersholm | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Rosmersholm, Alchymia Theatre. An arcane Ibsen work infrequently performed and overshadowed by his masterpieces, this 1886 melodrama nonetheless bears the playwright's unmistakable stamp, involving a freethinking woman, an overwrought man, allegations of sexual impropriety, and a dizzying amount of moral and intellectual pontificating. Somewhat long-winded and banal, Rosmersholm nonetheless has merit as an academic curiosity: it had a formative effect, for example, on works like Hedda Gabler.

Adapter-director Scott Fielding has obviously done his homework, emphasizing the simple poetry of Ibsen's language and allowing the characters' words to take on a life of their own. Sometimes his approach is almost too methodical--at nearly three hours, Alchymia's production is enough to test the patience of even the most ardent Ibsen fan. But where Fielding has truly erred is not in the pacing or the staging but in the way he's adapted the play, drawing parallels between 19th-century Norway and cold-war America, which were both swept by political and patriotic fervor.

Despite the similarities, Fielding's adaptation feels forced: the only thing that truly anchors this Rosmersholm in its 1953 setting is a reel of McCarthy speeches during intermission. Much more effective is Andrei Onegin's Spartan set design, which captures both the sterility and the melancholy of the Rosmer home. It's not subtle, but unlike Fielding's adaptation, it's not a distraction.

--Nick Green

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