“A Doll’s House” opened Thursday at Heartland Theatre to a standing ovation. Granted, this classic drama written by Henrik Ibsen in 1879 is nearly three hours long, but the audience (comprised of many high school students) was riveted to their seats, at times audibly gasping as they witnessed the plight of the dutiful housewife, Nora, as she tries to navigate in a world where women had little to no power.

Torvald, Nora’s husband, calls her his “little squirrel” and a spendthrift as he chides her for lavishing their children with Christmas presents. He is a man of rigid principles, insisting that the household be run without any debt. He believes his wife is frivolous with money.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While Nora makes some questionable decisions, she sacrifices everything for the benefit of her family.

When Torvald becomes dangerously ill, she borrows money (unbeknownst to him) so they may go to Italy, where Torvald eventually regains his health.

Upon returning home, Torvald lands a job as manager at the bank, and it appears that the financial burdens of the family are finally easing. But Nora’s debt is outstanding, and it comes back to haunt her.

Thanks to director Rhys Lovell and scenic designer Chad Lowell, this production is firmly rooted in its original time. The period furniture plus the meticulously authentic and detailed costumes by Rob Goode take place on an acting space enshrined in a metal framework, reminiscent of a cage which screams of a time when people were severely constricted by social expectations.

Jessie Swiech gives a nuanced and intelligent performance as Nora’s friend, Mrs. Linde. Len Childers is effectively volatile and dangerous as Krogstad.

As the ailing Dr. Rank, Don Shandrow gives a heartbreaking, tour de force performance.

Bob Kinsella plays Torvald with compassion and commitment. He is the perfect foil to Connie Blick’s jaw-dropping performance as Nora. Don’t miss this play; there is a reason it’s been around so long. It’s unforgettable.

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Weiss is a freelance writer who reviews plays for The Pantagraph.