'Master Builder' builds success on misfortune
Posted Dec. 1, 2006

Henrik Ibsen captured the souls of many during his play “The Master Builder,” shown at the Claremont Colleges in the Virginia Princehouse Allen Studio Theatre at 8 p.m. on Nov. 16 and 18 and 2 p.m. on Nov. 18 and 19.

This seldom produced classic commemorated the 100th year anniversary of the Norwegian playwright, Ibsen.

The play revolved around an aging master builder who awoke the ambitions of his youth when a virtuous damsel came knocking at his door.

There was a deep silence as the lights went out and dramatic music set the tone for about 50 audience members.

Posing as the perfect gentleman, the master builder dominated the stage in brown slacks, a grey vest and jacket, a tie and a buttoned shirt.

The slender businessman did all to maximize his profit without mercy, even at the expense of others.

He buried the remarkable talents of his student, Ragnar Brovik, and misled Ragnar’s fiancee, Kaja Fosli, into a pretentious relationship.

Halvard Solness, the master builder, knew his defeat was near but continued to be cold and ignorant to delay its coming.

Mr. Solness made a fortune off of the house fire.

He had to give up his home in order to build himself a name and build houses for others, even though his “home” would be lost forever.

The master builder’s wife, Mrs. Aline Solness, dressed in black and focused on the past.

She refused to stop mourning over the house and priceless possessions she had lost in the fire several years before.

The family doctor, Dr. Herdal, who was dressed in a brown suit, occasionally twirled his mustache and raised his spectacles, analyzing the madness of Mrs. Solness’s husband with her.

The tall cement-like double doors with gold handles set the stage exits on both sides of the set.

A simple desk with a lamp and an open book stood nearby.

Red striped doors or room dividers colored the center stage as green drapes on grey windows added to the grim background.

A red antique imprinted chair stood near a small firm couch that had a green cover.

Grey banners streamed down from the ceiling as blue and white lights lit the background.

The master builder was afraid of having luck on his side because he sensed that things were going to change.

During the very moment that the master builder was confessing his fear, a youthful maiden named Miss Hilda Wangel, who was dressed in an orange-patterned skirt and a red and orange jacket, knocked on the huge doors.

Hilda recalled how the master builder called her a princess, kissed her and promised to build her a castle in 10 years, exactly 10 years ago.

Now she had come to demand her majestic castle.

Serving as the confidant for the Solnesses, she unraveled the inner feelings of both characters.

She dressed like a poor villager and stood out like a soar thumb in the upper-class, urban-styled atmosphere that she plunged herself into.

Ben Acland played the master builder, carrying a great tone with a remarkable English accent and holding a great presence.

Sophie Herron awed all with her witty and loving attitude and fantastically adventurous imagination as Hilda.

Her outgoing personality radiated through her character.

She dominated the stage with sincerity and blissfulness.

At an early stage in his building career, Mr. Solness had made a promise at the top of a steeple to build God more churches in exchange for prosperity.

After abandoning his promise the master builder climbed a steeple, defeating his fear of heights to battle God once again.

Yelena Ovcharenko can be reached at yovcharenko@ulv.edu.

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