In a pared-down Broadway revival of “A Doll’s House,” the Oscar-winning actress doesn’t have props, period costumes or much of a set. To her surprise, she likes it.
“I don’t want it to feel like a TED Talk,” she said.
Chastain sat in the upstairs lounge at the Hudson Theater, where preview performances of “A Doll’s House” began on Feb. 13. She was fighting a cold and drinking Throat Coat herbal tea, dressed in a navy sweater and white sneakers, a fluffy tan coat pooling around her.
She was reflecting on what it means to be starring in a raw, radical reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play — a work long celebrated as a profound exploration of how gender roles confine women, distorting their identities.
Chastain has fought for pay equity in Hollywood, pushed for support of Planned Parenthood and used red-carpet and talk-show appearances to champion causes such as the women protesting repression in Iran. In films as varied as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” she’s embodied complicated, ambitious women who refuse to be constrained.
So she wondered if taking on the role of Nora, theater’s most famous oppressed housewife, might seem too pointed, even preachy.
“I’m such an advocate, I’m so outspoken, so even putting me in the part, we’re already doing something, right?” Chastain said. “So how can I as an actor approach it in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m here to give everyone in the audience a lecture?”
The answer came as she began to realize Nora isn’t a victim dominated by her condescending husband, Torvald. She plays the role of the pretty, fragile, childlike wife for a reason.
“When denied, you work within a system to gain power, and we’re all responsible for that. So that’s not just, oh, Torvald is a villain because he’s put Nora in a cage. Nora has stepped in the cage to gain what little power she has,” Chastain said. “Because girls are taught so young to be smaller, right? So our voices get higher, we don’t want to be threatening, we’re docile and meek. That’s kind of bred into us. But that’s part of how we are helping it continue, women not being seen as equal. We’re playing a part so we’re palatable enough, so that people hopefully will listen to us.”
Read the full article/interview in our press library.