LANESBORO — Lee Gundersheimer would like theater-goers to leave something at the door when they arrive to see Henrik Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” at the Commonweal Theater: their fear of Ibsen.
“I would love for them to bring their reverence for Ibsen, but to check their fear or trepidation at the door,” Gundersheimer said. “This won’t be like any other Ibsen play they’ve seen.”
Gundersheimer, managing director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival, is directing “The Master Builder,” which opens April 18 as part of the annual Ibsen Fest weekend at the Commonweal.
What’s ironic about Gundersheimer’s request is that, as he said, “The Master Builder” is really about fear.
“We get that you’re going to be a little apprehensive — the play is about that,” he said.
But this adaptation of “The Master Builder” by Minnesota playwright Jeffrey Hatcher should remove some of the foreboding with which many modern audiences greet Ibsen’s plays. “His adaptation is immediately accessible,” Gundersheimer said.
The Commonweal production features Scott Dixon in the lead role of Solness, along with Commonweal company members Hal Cropp, David Hennessey and Ana Hagedorn, and guest actors Ellen Apel, Claire Richards and Brandt Roberts.
Gundersheimer was invited to direct at the Commonweal because, he said, “they had heard through the wind that I had done a couple of Ibsen plays in Duluth.”
However, “The Master Builder” wasn’t among those plays, and Gundersheimer said directing it for the first time has been an eye-opener. The play turns out to have much to say to modern audiences.
“Every time somebody (in public life) could be brought down by what they do privately, that’s in this play,” he said. “The issues he grapples with in this play could easily be right now.”
Besides, Ibsen, for all his perceived darkness and density, is not much different from today’s popular entertainments.
“If you can get into ‘Breaking Bad’ or you can watch ‘Game of Thrones,’ you can find a reason to like Ibsen,” Gundersheimer said.
If you go
What: “The Master Builder”
When: April 18 through June 13
Where: Commonweal Theatre, 208 Parkway Ave. N, Lanesboro
Tickets: $35; 800-657-7025. Tickets for April 17 preview performance at 7:30 p.m. are $20.