Henrick Ibsen

19th-century Norwegian

Pearl Theatre Company;  December 14, 2010

In this not so frequently performed play, we get a melodrama which reflected Ibsen’s frustration with both sides of the political debate at the time.  Just a querulous, self-aggrandizing argument between two irreconcilable factions.  Liberal and conservative; right and left.  Either a visionary statement about America in the first decade of the 21st Century, or a statement about all human kind which we in America are powerless to resist.

The plot, simply, ideologue Rebecca West insinuates herself into the household and hearts of several men and women in and around the home of Johannes Rosmer, hence the title Rosmersholm – Rosmer’s home.  Her motives are pure, as she sees it, and her methods justified by her means, one of which is steering Rosmer’s hapless, depressed wife toward suicide.  Once Rebecca has gained clandestine control she woos whomsoever, howsoever she must in order to bring her radical left agenda to fruition.  Rosmer is a respected pastor who has secretly lost his faith.  Two others men are publishers of newspapers of opposing views.  Rebecca pretty much controls them all.  Rosmer, being in the center of her plans, is the beneficiary of the Mata Hari in her, and he is desperately in love with her, even after her role in his wife’s suicide and her subterfuge have been exposed.

Rosmer is now without wife, without god and without friends.  All he has is Rebecca and in that paucity of human connection he has no choice but to cling to her.  He must forgive this devious young beauty no matter her transgressions.

But Rebecca, too, has an epiphany.  She sees who she is and can no longer live with or without Rosmer.  Has she truly fallen in love with him, too, or does she, too, have nowhere else to turn?  Neither can live with or without the other.

An apostate warrior, Rosmer must make things right but, alas:  no more god on his side.  Had he looked to Jesus or Joan of Arc he might have known how mere mortals cannot set whole societies straight.  Had he lived today he would also have had the Mahatma or Martin Luther King as examples.  What human can stand tall against such potent enemies without god?  The aforementioned four all were martyred by the mob, but it takes unusual courage to stand so tall, so naked, without infusion of the holy spirit.

And so the two take the only course they can possibly take.  They must follow Rosmer’s dead wife off that very same bridge.

The Pearl, as usual, does a great job, even though neither Sean Mcnall nor Lee Stark were in this production. The actors and directing are generally quite good.  One very nice touch was that the scene change was accomplished by a stage hand in full costume.

One further thought.  Ibsen was not particularly economical of word in this play.  He seemed to make some points repeatedly and hence the play was a bit too long.  Not that it didn’t show brilliant insight into the human condition, but how many times do I have to tell you you have mustard on your shirt before you get it?

Sometimes there is a talkback after productions.  A word of caution.  If you are not a real aficionado of the work or playwright being discussed, take a pass.  Those who remained behind were quite knowledgeable and interested in Ibsen and drama generally.  Intellectual discussions of this type tend to detract, in my mind, from the profundity of emotion which was expressed economically by the playwright and requires no further analysis.  If you don’t get it on a gut level, then you have wasted your time and your forty-five bucks.