Lots of girls hold a doll in each hand and make up stories, but only Mackenzie Maula holds her dolls while reciting a version of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, “A Doll’s House.”
Maula is from Henryville, north of Philadelphia in Monroe County, and she’s girlish and compelling and 14 years old. As she plows in an hour through the life of Nora and Torvald and their marriage in 19th-century Norway, she gives a performance that’s also very real.
In fact, her telling of “A Doll’s House” – a Philly Fringe festival production that is EgoPo Classic Theater’s first in a season the company will devote to Ibsen – has all the trimmings, even though it’s abridged. Nora is a confused and naïve, and altogether a songbird of a wife. Torvald behaves more like an adult supervisor then her husband. And when the chips are down – when a problem at the bank Torvald runs is traceable to his wife – you can’t patch things up for love nor money.
Frequent Fringe director Brenna Geffers does an excellent job moving the story along with clever touches here and there – without spoiling it, I’ll just write that Barbie and Ken, Raggedy Ann and even Darth Vader figure into the dolls that represent Ibsen’s characters. When Maula isn’t giving voice to the men’s roles, Ross Beschler and Robert T. DaPonte become the offstage voices of male dominance and, sometimes, reason.
But the evening belongs to young Mackenzie Maula. She slips in and out of costumes (Robin I Shane’s designs) and roles, leaving the dolls behind and assuming the personas she’s assigned them. She shifts among voices easily, and takes over a stage that features a laptop computer, which she uses to change the background music that sets the mood for different scenes (Matt Sharp’s light and sound design.) Her performance is seamless, one of those little finds in the Fringe festival that makes you feel as if you’ve discovered her yourself.
“A Doll’s House” runs through Sept. 22 at the Adrienne Theatre, on Sansom Street between 20th and 21st Streets. For information on all FringeArts shows in the festival, including dates, times and venues, visit www.fringearts.com