There's nothing supernatural about Henrik Ibsen's 1881 drama: His ghosts are our own bitter memories and the old, dead ideas that continue to confine and stifle us. The form and the language may be dated, but the issues are as fresh as ever. Mrs. Alving (Deborah Strang) has crucified herself in the service of duty and respectability that narrow provincial society and her own hypocritical minister, Pastor Manders (Joel Swetow), have drilled into her. But her efforts to do the right thing have backfired because they were based on lies, and her attempts to shield her son (J. Todd Adams) from hard truths have almost destroyed him. Ibsen has structured his play like Oedipus Rex or a modern whodunit. On a seemingly ordinary day, inconvenient truths keep emerging, inexorably, till everything and everyone are morally compromised or destroyed. Director-adapter Michael Murray has assembled a fine cast (including Mark Bramhall and understudy Rebecca Mozo); he calibrates their performances with precision and reveals a sharp eye for Ibsen's dark comedy. If one wanted to quibble, one might wish the last scene had been played for a bit less melodrama, but overall, it's a terrific, coherent and always engrossing production. Nikki Delhomme provided the fine costumes. A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Blvd., Glendale; in alternating rep through May 9; call for schedule. (818) 240-0910.
Sat., March 21; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sun., March 29, 2 p.m.; April 1-2, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 25, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 26, 2 & 7 p.m.; April 29-30, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 9, 2 & 8 p.m. Starts: March 21. Continues through May 8, 2009