Even now, Henrik Ibsen doesn’t really get his due. It’s hard for us to appreciate the rut that European theater was stuck in in the 19th century, filled with stock characters and sentimental clichés. That didn’t change until the 1870s, when the Norwegian playwright scandalized the continent with his dramas. With their psychological realism and social consciousness, A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, and Ghosts look startlingly contemporary. Almost singlehandedly, he dragged theater into the modern age.
Yet Ibsen predicted the future in other ways as well, as we can see in When We Dead Awaken, which Pantagleize Theatre is putting on for two weekends. This play finds Ibsen writing in an apocalyptic vein. (If that sounds strange, remember that the same author wrote about trolls, witches, and brownies in Peer Gynt.) This highly symbolic play is about a sculptor, his wife, his former model, and a hunter going on a mountain trek above a fjord. The sculptor leaves his wife for the model, as both realize that they have felt dead since they last worked together, though neither realizes that their shared desire for a higher realm of life is a sort of death wish. The last play that Ibsen wrote, it’s an uncharacteristically rough work but one that has recently rewarded directors willing to take a chance on it. Pantagleize has experience poking around in Ibsen’s more obscure plays; we’re interested to see what they make out of this.
When We Dead Awaken runs Jan 26-Feb 5 at 1115 W Rio Grande St, FW. Tickets are $10-12. Call 817-472-0032.