The Master Builder @ Clurman Theatre, New York

cast list
Pun Bandhu, Chris Ceraso, Brian D. Coats, Susan Ferrara, Jennifer Gawlik, Peter Judd, Sarah Stockton

directed by
Eric Parness
The Master Builder is long. One of Henrik Ibsens last plays, it is full of imagery, angst and ponderings on guilt. Chris Ceraso plays Halvard Solness, the Master Builder, so wonderfully that the play moves reasonably well, but by the end of the second intermission one realizes the show is a lot longer than it really needs to be.

On one level, The Master Builder is the complex story of a man at the height of his power, afraid of losing it all. The arrival of a young woman, full of sexy worship, brings the insecurities and fears of Halvard Solness to the fore, but her arrival also triggers a reckless youthful streak of bravado in the Master Builder. There is much discussion of trolls, mind control and the meaning of responsibility. One cannot help but think that if this fifty-year-old guy just got a hooker and a mai tai he would get through his midlife crises a lot easier.
However, this is not to be. This being a nineteenth century Norwegian drama there must be much talk of duty, heavy sighs and swallowing of deep felt emotions. Here, it is all done well. Susan Ferrara plays Mrs. Solness with the appropriate gravitas of a woman whose life has fallen out of control on the altar of her husbands ambition. Jennifer Gawlik plays a young woman in the Master Builders thrall, only to be ignored once a more exciting woman enters the scene. Ms. Gawliks young heart visibly breaks when Mr. Solness is done with her.

There is another story of a father and son who work for Halvard Solness, Knut and Ragnar Brovik. They represent the men that the Master Builder has used in his quest to reach the pinnacle of his profession. But the characters are marched in and out so mechanically they only need to have been referred to.

Sarah Stockton plays Hilda Wangel, the brash, exciting, sexy young lady that enters Mr. Solness’s life and immediately captivates him. Ms. Stockton handles the coquettish duties easily. Her attractiveness is matched by a zest for life. She breathes fresh air into a stuffy situation.

Director Eric Parness stages the scenes well and lets Mr. Ceraso pull the audience along with the show as long as he can. However, ultimately The Master Builder feels dated, and, as it is in repertory with The Glass House, feels less connected to architecture than expected.

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