Playwright Spence Porter has reworked Ibsenís 1888 THE
LADY FROM THE SEA into the similarly titled THE WOMAN FROM THE SEA.
Here, the action unfolds in the 1950ís. The time period does not seem to
have been selected for any particular reason, save that it may represent an
era in which women were slightly freer to make decisions that would steer
Ibsen is notable for his strong, complicated female
characters. In my experience, the power of these dramatic creations had very
little to do with the times and everything to do with the inherent mystique
created by Ibsenís writing. So, Spence Porterís choice to move the setting
of THE WOMAN FROM THE SEA does nothing, from my perspective, to
ensure a modernization of the text. It does, however, allow him to perhaps
update the language. In the United States, of course, Ibsenís plays are
presented in translation, and a skilled interpreter can modernize the
As to the story itself, we meet a seaside nuclear family,
the Wangels. There are two vivacious daughters, Bolette and Hilda (Tatjiana
Vujosevic, Debbie Jaffe), who lounge by the sea and prepare for the birthday
of their dear, departed birth mother. Their father, Dr. Wangel (David
Winton) has remarried to a forlorn, if lovely, younger woman, Ellida
(Margaret Dawson), who is the one that is referred to as "that woman from
the sea." Thrown into the dramatic blender, we also find Boletteís former
tutor, Daniel (Fred Rueck), a young suitor, Hans (Pete Byrne), an eccentric
artist, Teddy Ballister (Sterling Coyne) and the mysterious Seaman (A.J.
As expected, the distracted Ellida Wangel has secrets, a
hidden past, and a heart of unrest. Her maturing step-daughters are drawing
the attentions of men, with the eldest, Bolette, considering a proposal that
will take her away from the family and off to a life of her own. Ellidaís
past collides with her present. Ghosts emerge. Painful choices are made. For
all the twists and turns, however, the action never treads into mysticism,
and THE WOMAN FROM THE SEA remains firmly on solid ground.
Never breaking into fairy tale world it so tries to
reach, Porterís THE WOMAN FROM THE SEA is, nevertheless, a respectful
adaptation of a classic.
- Kessa De Santis -