In Dollhouse, the new play at Stages Repertory Theatre, the character Nora is ''constantly making bets, playing tactics, trying to weigh the stakes, and she has a very fluid feminine energy — 'I'll be for you what you need so that I'll also get what I want,''' says director Eva Laporte. ''Nora is smarter than people might think; she may not be as smart as she thinks, though,'' Laporte adds. If anything about that sounds familiar, it should. Dollhouse by playwright Rebecca Gilman is peopled with characters similar to those in Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's classic A Doll's House — which shocked audiences in the late 1800s with its ending. But this updated -version takes a different, 21st-century turn, although its ending may equally shock audiences of today.

Terry and Nora are married, not entirely happily, as they try to pursue their version of the American Dream. ''This entire household is trying to craft the perfect picture of a family and a life. So we really look at it through this modern lens,'' Laporte says. ''What is the cost to have a truly intimate relationship with two people who are being fulfilled? Is that possible?'' Gilman's play was commissioned in 2004, which adds a certain poignancy to it. ''This was right before the cusp of the mortgage bubble crash, so there was a sort of innocence that an upwardly mobile middle class had about what the American Dream could look like for them,'' Laporte says.

Dollhouse coincides with Stages' annual Surround, a series of lectures, post-show discussions and a visual art exhibit. This Surround explores what the American Dream looks like to different people and how it has evolved, Laporte says.

7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Through April 28. 3201 Allen Parkway. For information, call 713-527-0123 or visit $21 to $40.
Wednesdays-Sundays. Starts: April 3. Continues through April 28, 2013


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