In this topnotch Goodman world premiere of Rebecca Gilman’s updated spin on “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen, Nora does leave her man in the final scene, per Ibsen’s original. But a few minutes later, she changes her mind and returns to her tony Lincoln Park condo and resumes, if uneasily, life with her prig of a husband. “You’re going to pay for this,” she informs him, though she just as easily could have been saying this to herself. It is Gilman’s one major plot tweak, and while certainly realistic, it sort of defeats the purpose of the entire play. What’s the point if Nora doesn’t leave at the end? It’s the one drawback in an otherwise excellent reworking that is less about feminist awakening than skewering a very particular kind of status-obsessed lifestyle. It all takes place in set designer Robert Brill’s box-within-a-box living room and kitchen—a magazine-worthy domain rendered as a yuppie wet dream, with the behemoth plasma TV and expensive cabinetry. The environment is key; no matter how much crap Nora and husband Terry fill their home with, they never fill the void in their personalities. It seems harmless at first when Nora comes home loaded with shopping bags, half of which she hides from Terry. Money is an issue in this marriage—a problem that becomes increasingly dismal as director Robert Falls incrementally tightens the belt with each scene. It’s a skillful maneuver, as is Maggie Siff’s incarnation of Nora, channeling all the V’s she can muster: vapid, vacuous, vibrant, vaporous and, to Nora’s mind, valiant. Dressed as Jennifer Beals for an eighties-themed New Year’s party, Siff enacts her own, braless, she’s-a-maniac version of “Flashdance,” and it is both the funniest and most desperate, unsettling piece of choreography I’ve seen all year. (Nina Metz)
“Dollhouse” plays at the Goodman Theatre, 170 North Dearborn, (312)443-3800, through July 24.