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Mabou Mines Dollhouse 

Friday, Dec 1 2006
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The men in director Lee Breuer and performer Maude Mitchell’s bawdy, touring adaptation of Ibsen’s play tower at around 4 feet high. Meanwhile, the “little turtledove” women, so in need of protecting, float around them with about two more feet of height. Sometimes they hold the little men in their arms, while the fellas — particularly Mark Provinelli’s glorious Torvald — patronize them. You won’t find a more direct satirical hit on the strutting self-importance of the male gender, whose very biological and emotional purpose has grown increasingly dubious in the past half century. Narelle Sisson’s set places the action in a doll’s house with miniature furniture, which opens into the stage of an opera house. The ensemble speaks in fake Norwegian dialect (“job” becomes “yob,” “joy” becomes “yoy”) adding to a string of verbal and visual puns floating on Breuer’s wrenching conceit, like foam on the sea. Playing Edvard Grieg etudes on an electric piano, Ning Yu accompanies the action, which is something between a clown show and a ballet, drawing out the innate melodrama of Ibsen’s text and puffing up the core emotions to a grandiloquence that’s almost as large as the men’s egos. Mitchell’s blond “featherbrain” Nora emerges like a lioness from her innocuous shell, while Honora Fergusson Neumann’s dark-haired, smoky voiced Kristine Linde works in perfect counterpoint. There’s never been A Doll’s House quite like this, which is its soaring virtue. The Mabou Mines presented by UCLA Live at the Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, UCLA, Wstwd.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 10. (310) 825-2101 or www.UCLALive.org.

—Steven Leigh Morris

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Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

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