The Master Builder

OUT OF THE BLUEPRINTS Naughton, center, has big plans

OUT OF THE BLUEPRINTS Naughton, center, has big plans Photograph: Carol Rosegg

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>2/5

Ibsen does battle with God and retribution in his heavy, overtly symbolic psychological drama about an aging, cantankerous architect. Having squashed the well-being of others in his rise to prominence, Halvard Solness (Naughton) now fears that he will meet the same fate at the hands of the young. Enter Hilde (Parry), a sunny 22-year-old who may be just what he needs.

Ibsen does battle with God and retribution in his heavy, overtly symbolic psychological drama about an aging, cantankerous architect. Having squashed the well-being of others in his rise to prominence, Halvard Solness (Naughton) now fears that he will meet the same fate at the hands of the young. Enter Hilde (Parry), a sunny 22-year-old who may be just what he needs. When Solness kissed and flirted with her a decade earlier—the day he ascended a building of his that had just been erected in her hometown—she was smitten; now she's come to collect the kingdom that he promised to build her way back when.

In Ciarn O'Reilly's morass of a production, which squanders a lucid Frank McGuinness adaptation, Parry splendidly evokes Hilde's contradictory spunky-child, sensible-woman nature, and Kristin Griffith quietly captures the chilly demeanor of Solness's wife. But Naughton struggles to connect with the megalomaniacal master builder and his despair, seeming less lost in character than just plain lost. He still looks the debonair leading man, but the meticulous casualness and ease he usually wears so well don't fit this dark role: Like Solness, he sometimes appears "about to crack under the burden." By the end of The Master Builder, the spirited Hilde has had her youthful idolatry dashed; theatergoers who have admired Naughton's work as an actor (Chicago) and director (Our Town) may be able to relate.Diane Snyder

Irish Repertory Theatre. By Henrik Ibsen. Adapted by Frank McGuinness. Dir. Ciarn O'Reilly. With James Naughton, Charlotte Parry. 2hrs 10mins. One intermission.