The Pearl Theatre Company breathes new life in Henrik Ibsen's lesser-known drama.
The Pearl's production -- directed by Elinor Renfield -- accentuates these ties by using a faithful yet provocative adaptation by Mike Poulton, who sharpens the edges of some political dialogue in the play. He also emphasizes the frustrated (and, to others, frustrating) optimism with which Ibsen infuses his heroes -- Johannes Rosmer (played with beautiful clarity by longtime Pearl company member Bradford Cover) and Rebecca West (Margot White) -- and which has taken on even more pointed relevance in the age of Obama.
Listen to Rosmer as he stubbornly insists on believing only the best from opposing factions who have demonstrated malice and obstruction towards him; you'll undoubtedly hear some prophetic echoes, whatever your political sympathies might be. It's that startling recognition, in fact, that gives this play its truly tragic dimensions.
As the traditionally bombastic Dr. Kroll, the uncompromising conservative who uncovers damaging secrets at Rosmersholm, Austin Pendleton offers some of his strongest stage work in recent memory. He overplays somewhat the naturalistic hand gestures that convey an exterior calm to his character, but he's often mesmerizing in his increasingly heated confrontations with Rosmer, Rebecca, and others.
Less consistent is White as the passionate free thinker hiding dark secrets from her past. The actress is particularly compelling in the show's second half, as the fissures in her life turn to chasms, but she tends to give too much away in the first act, overplaying certain moments in ways that unnecessarily signal what's to come.