In the past four years, while here at Murray State, I have been in more than two dozen theatrical productions. Of those productions I have portrayed a pertinent character in over half of them. Also, for the past three summers I have worked in regional theatres across the Midwest and East Coast, with the likes of such acclaimed artist as Terrance Mann (Les Miserables, Cats), Debra Monk (Pump Boys & Dinettes, Centerstage), and Dave Clemmons (Broadway's #1 casting director). I am not saying this to toot my own horn but rather to say I have been in and around theatre for a long time. So, when I watch a performance I am, more often than not, critiquing the actor's work as opposed just enjoying the show. I do not critique to feel better about myself; I do it to figure out what worked and what did not. So if, and when, I reach that status I will have "bettered" myself.
I found myself particularly aware of the performance of David Warner, as he portrayed Torvald Helmer in Joseph Losey's 1973 movie version of Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play A Doll's House.
While reading this play, I was not at all enthralled with the idea of portraying Torvald on stage, as I had been with the thought of playing Tennessee Williams' Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire (1947). Torvald seemed stuffy and "codgy" and like a role I would dread. However, upon seeing Warner's attempt in showing us, the audience, his insight into Torvald's mind, I would have died to play that role in that particular production.
I really enjoyed the fact that he made Torvald a caring man--because he was! However, Torvald was too nice. The pet names seemed like nothing more than terms of endearment (i.e. sweetheart, baby), and the control over Nora (Jane Fonda) seemed like nothing but a lover's concern for his loved one. Sure, Torvald loved his wife, and he needed to show his feelings, but I feel they should have been masked by his air of supremacy. If this role is not given the careful consideration it deserves the ending is lost. Nora no longer seems like the protagonist but instead the antagonist. She had lied to her husband and then leaves him because they get into a lover's quarrel. I know this is not the message Ibsen was trying to convey.
I feel I could have played Torvald with the subtle nastiness required. Another enticement would be-oh yeah, and not to mention--I would have gotten to play opposite Jane Fonda (what a babe!).