Theater Review: 'The Master Builder' -- 3 stars
The Master Builder
Andrei Belgrader’s new production of Henrik Ibsen’s 1892 tragedy “The Master Builder,” which stars John Turturro and is now playing at Brooklyn Academy of Music, manages to make a difficult, highly symbolic, rarely staged play feel fresh, focused, sinister and unapologetically erotic.
Halvard Solness (Turturro), a middle-aged architect who fears he will soon be overshadowed by younger talent, is emotionally revived by Hilde (Wrenn Schmidt), a 23-year-old free spirit who has idolized Solness since he built a church in her town a decade earlier. He hardly remembers her, but accepts the flattery.
She wants him to build her a castle, as he apparently once promised to do for her, or at least climb a nearby structure and hang a garland at the top, despite his fear of heights.
This staging successfully utilizes David Edgar’s modern language translation, a mechanical, skeletal set design and live music for a chilling soundscape.
The relationship between Turturro and Schmidt is always suspenseful and sexy. While Turturro gives a very physical and psychologically revealing performance that emphasizes Solness’ neuroticism, Schmidt makes a convincing transition from hippie-like hitchhiker to temptress.
Katherine Borowitz, who is married to Turturro in real life, also makes an impact as Solness’ wife, who indirectly conveys her discomfort with her husband’s new infatuation.
Moral of the story: If a pretty young thing shows up at your doorstep and asks you to climb a tall tower, you should probably pause for a minute or two before showing off your physical abilities.