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Back in 2007, the venerable New York-based multidisciplinary theater collective Mabou Mines stunned Arena Stage audiences with Peter and Wendy, an update of J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan. The company’s inventive use of puppetry was a perfect match for the rousing but ultimately mournful tale of a boy who refuses to grow up, and a girl who knows she must. As for how puppetry might inform a classic of 19th-century naturalism, well, we’re damned curious, is all. Mabou Mines cofounding artistic director Lee Breuer—who believes in puppetry the way Steve Jobs believed in personal computers—co-adapted and directed Mabou Mines’ DollHouse, a reworking of Henrik Ibsen’s tragedy A Doll’s House that interpolates puppetry and casts little actors opposite tall actresses. Ibsen’s drama shocked audiences in 1879 by indicting the marriage wherein banker Torvald values his reputation more than his wife, dismisses her sacrifices for him, and regards her as a childlike being from whom he craves dependence, not partnership. By reducing the men physically to the size of Nora and Torvald’s children, Breuer perhaps aims to restore some of the provocative power Ibsen’s play possessed in its early performances.
The play runs tonight through Saturday at the Kennedy Center Eishenhower Theatre, 2700 F St. NW. $30-$50. (202) 467-4600.