NEW YORK (AP) — If you didn't think Henrik Ibsen's work was sexy and racy, you'll be pleasantly surprised by BAM's production of "The Master Builder," which embraces a whole new interpretation of that classic 1892 tragedy.
At least the Freudian symbolism of tall towers, even taller church spires and ruined homes remains, and the basic story is intact, in the spirited production that opened Monday night at the BAM Harvey Theater. There are moments that almost look like soft-porn comedy, which detract from the anguished soul-searching the main character is meant to undergo. Yet those moments also seem suitable, as the fantasies of an older skirt-chaser.
An aging architect (John Turturro), whose success was built upon the exploitation of others, is faced with mortality and regrets. Selfishly reluctant to pass the torch to the next generation, he's also trapped in a dead marriage, partly of his own doing, and compulsively flirts with much-younger women. A lively young stranger (Wrenn Schmidt) will insistently change the course of his life, demanding fulfillment of a long-forgotten promise while he uncharacteristically shares his weaknesses and fears with her.
This version by British playwright David Edgar, from a literal translation by Desiree Kongered McDougall, has modernized and changed Ibsen's language, removing many references to the inner "demons and trolls" that plague the architect. Notably, under the direction of Andrei Belgrader, Hilde's sexuality and advances to the architect are so bold that he practically gropes her in return.