Arts & Entertainment

Tacoma Little Theatre’s ‘A Doll’s House’ challenges historical gender norms

A symbolic execution occurred this month onstage at the Tacoma Little The­atre. The sacred role of being a women — as dictated by 19th century social norms — died as the lights dimmed and the upstairs house party ceased to a halt. The crowd fell silent as main character Nora’s bellowing voice grew deep and full of distaste in preparation for her groundbreaking monologue.

Perhaps the most controversial and shocking piece of dramatic literature of its time period, “A Doll’s House” provides a peek into the societal struc­ture of the 19th century. The play begins by painting a portrait of Nora, a pure and cheerful woman who cares for her family and maintains the characteristics of a virtuous woman. However, Nora holds within her a secret that could cause her surface level perfect life to come crashing down. Written by Hen­rick Ibsen in the 1870’s, “A Doll’s House” critiques the patriarchal social system of Europe during the time pe­riod that depicts the lack of agency women had. As the story unfolds, we watch as Nora navigates through her life in a world where acting without male permission is the ultimate sin — thus parts from her role as a doting mother and wife.

Director Marilyn Bennett explained the character of Nora as she dissected the storyline for the audience. “Her sweet, deferential, childlike persona was born of a doting, but ultimately with­holding father; she then married and transferred her skills at delighting her Papa to wooing her husband and enter­taining both him and their children,” Bennett said. Annie Katica Green, the actress tasked with portraying this com­plex persona, pushes the audience to adore Nora and see her in a multidi­mensional way. As Nora’s character development progresses, the audience can’t help but root for her as she exer­cises her rights as a human being.

As a set, “A Doll’s House” is beauti­fully executed. Taken in by about 10 feet on either side, Tacoma Little Theatre’s stage appeared to be a doll house — complete with annular walls, luxurious furniture, and lovely decor — truly cre­ating the perfect setting to showcase Nora’s doll-like existence. The costumes are modest in nature, but speak per­fectly to 19th century Europe, allowing the audience to peer into the Norwegian customs and culture of 1885.

The performance was so captivat­ing because it captured an ex­perience many young women may face in to­day’s society — the development of oneself in a male dominated world. It is a transformation from being what societal expecta­tions of a “good” woman are to discovering one­self and becom­ing a woman with agency over her life. Al­though “A Doll’s House” is written by a male play­wright, it per­petuated femi­nist social commentary and disputed patriar­chal expecta­tions. Ibsen noted “A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and a judi­cial system that judges feminine con­duct from a masculine point of view.”

“A Doll’s House” is a play that tells a story that is still relevant in con­temporary times — one where wom­en have less agency over their exis­tence and must navigate their lives under the cloak of patriarchy. Ben­nett’s rendition of the play celebrates such a commemorative moment in theatre history and brilliantly show­cases the story of Nora. Although not as controversial of a performance as it was when it first debuted, the show still challenges gender norms and asks the audience at what point is enough, enough?


Alex Alderman

Alex is studying sustainable urban development. She loves going to events around Tacoma and telling people about them. Her goal is to use her degree to make cities more sustainable.