Senior and director Aidan Murphy got the idea to write “Torvald” during a playwriting workshop course Spring Term of his sophomore year. What started off as a joke between Murphy and a friend about Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” not having any musical element besides a door slam became inspiration to write a sequel in musical form. Murphy presented the musical as his Senior Honors Project on May 5 and 6 in Kresge Recital Hall.
Murphy’s production begins immediately after the ending scene of “A Doll’s House,” in which Torvald’s wife, Nora, leaves him. As the protagonist, Torvald then has to deal with the effects of his wife’s departure and figure out how to be a single father.
Throughout the play Torvald is haunted by a spectre of a woman, who looks identical to Nora. He also meets and becomes infatuated with Clara, another woman who resembles Nora. Senior Miranda Curtis, who plays all three of the women, figures this to be indicative of Torvald’s misogynistic tendency.
“Essentially they’re all representative of what Torvald is attracted to in a woman,” she said.
Murphy intended for Torvald to be disliked in the beginning of the play. Torvald and Nils Krogstad (played by freshman Nico Colangelo) sing about their complaints of women not living up to their expectations. In his part, Torvald expresses that what he wants in a woman is someone who will watch his kids and be a good wife.
“It’s kind of sexist number,” he said. “I expect people to be uncomfortable by that, to kind of hate Torvald and Nils. That’s kind of the point.”
Senior Zak Metalsky welcomed the challenge of having to find a balance playing the role of Torvald. He was determined to make the misogyny believable while maintaining an aspect of humor that stays true to the comedic nature of the musical.
“It’s very tricky in that he’s a famously misogynistic character, but in the musical he has to gain some sort of sympathy from the audience, maybe not empathy but some level of understanding,” Metalsky said.
Metalsky resisted the urge to distance himself from his character and playing the role too ironically. He wanted to get across how harmful Torvald’s ways are not only to his family, but also to himself.
“I tried to see him as not only the patriarchy so to speak, but also a victim in his own right,” Metalsky said. “Not nearly as bad as Nora, but in his own toxic masculine ways of thinking [he] really messed up his own life as well.”
Curtis saw “Torvald” as an opportunity to get involved in one of the few musical theatre productions at Knox. Having only performed musical theatre for voice recitals, Curtis feels that Knox doesn’t have the ability to put on musicals frequently. This, she feels, is a reason for the production’s success.
“I think that there was a huge turnout for “Torvald” because everybody was so excited that there was a musical at Knox,” she said. “Even in the beginning, you could hear everybody singing with the musical theatre songs that we played in the beginning— the pre show music— and it’s something that the theatre kids really love.”
While Murphy does not yet have any concrete plans, he intends to continue revising and reworking “Torvald.” Eventually, he hopes to see it fully staged. He feels that the time period offers a chance to work with an elaborate set and costumes.
“There’s so much you can do with 19th century set pieces … for me as a writer to imagine the possibilities for staging it in an actual living room as opposed to a bare stage,” Murphy said. “I’d love to see it staged more fully.”