Last night, my wife and I went to see Ibsen's The Lady From the Sea in a production at the Lantern Theater Company. The production was quite good, and the play is the only Ibsen play I can think of that has a happy ending (Peer Gynt does, too, in a way, but it's ambiguous). It is, however, a transitional work and so not entirely satisfying. Ibsen took a big step in it away from purely social drama and toward symbolic drama (but he retreated a bit with his next, Hedda Gabler). One of the interesting things about the play is that Hilda Wangel, who fatefully visits Solness, the title character in The Master Builder (which we saw Wednesday in New York), appears as a young girl, apparently before her initial encounter with Solness. It is clearly the same character, though. It is not at all surprising that this little girl would grow up to be the character in The Master Builder (of course, we get to know her family background as well).
The important theme in The Lady From the Sea is that love must be unconditional and that the one who loves must grant the beloved freedom, even if that freedom entails the loss of the beloved. Once again I was reminded of how far above most contemporary dramatists Ibsen towers. He thought originally, powerfully, and was never in thrall to fashionable ideas or poses.