A Doll’s House, Next Theatre Company. When Nora Helmer shuts the door behind her at the end of A Doll’s House, another door opens–one leading to the emancipation of all women caught in the doll-like roles society has prescribed for them. Nora has been a sweet, loving wife for eight years, charming her husband into indulging her wishes and hiding the financial machinations that secretly saved his life. When one of her husband’s employees, Nils Krogstad, threatens to expose her, she expects her beloved husband to rescue her in turn. When he doesn’t, her eyes are opened to his pettiness and fear.

This powerful production, directed by Robert Scogin, highlights Nora’s transformation from a shallow, fluttery songbird who dances on command to a jaded, independent woman with a core of steel. Frank McGuinness’s 1996 translation gives Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 feminist classic a fresh, contemporary feel, and Lia Mortensen is startlingly agile as an untraditional, unrestrained Nora who fully expresses her every whim without descending into melodrama. Si Osborne manages to be nuanced and sympathetic as Nora’s morally rigid, condescending husband, revealing the tenderness and gentleness that must have drawn Nora to him in the first place. Lesley Bevan is wearily steady as Nora’s friend Kristine Linde–the polar opposite of Steve Cardamone, whose Krogstad is so agitated we can almost smell his desperation.

–Jennifer Vanasco