It's an old story. A celebrated older man is inspired by the adoration of a much younger girl. She helps him revive his dreams and see himself as heroic. From the lurid seduction of one's own stepdaughter that led to a marriage with a "paternal feeling" and a broken family of the Soon Yi – Woody Allen coupling to the ridiculous sofa jumping enthusiasm of a 40-something man who impregnates a girl who had his poster in her bedroom just a few years ago of the Tom-Kat phenomena, these are relationships where the girl-woman has the power of youth which evens out the power and prestige of the man. To a man her own age, she's an equal and he's usually less financially stable.
Are these relationships good? Those that believe wedded bliss depends upon the happiness or consent of both sets of parents probably don't think so. When divorce was less likely, the view was even dimmer. Henrik Ibsen mixed mythology with social commentary in 1892 "The Master Builder," currently playing in repertoire at Glendale's A Noise Within. The production keeps the setting in the past and strongly builds an enthralling, psychologically deep though claustrophobic world.
The master builder, Halvard Solness (Geoff Elliott), lives in fear—fear of change, fear of new, youthful ideas and fear of becoming outdated and unnecessary. So he plays god—manipulating his bookkeeper, Kaja (Rona Benson), into keeping her fiancé who works as his draftsman, Ragnar (Stephen Rockwell), underneath his watchful gaze. Even as Ragnar's father, Knut Brovik (Len Lesser), is dying, pleading with Solness to give his boy a chance to fly on his own as an architect, Solness persists in stripping Ragnar of self-confidence. His wife, Aline (Jill Hill), remains fully aware of Kaja's intense devotion but she is driven by what is her duty. Into this claustrophobic human tangle, a young girl, Hilda (Julia Watt), enters, remembering Solness as he was a decade ago—much braver and much more flamboyant than the man who now exists. The master builder has a psychological harem, but he also has a guilt-gilded sense of duty that binds him to his tolerant and proper wife.
For the Scandinavian audiences, the story of the master builder was a familiar part of their folklore. A king wants to build a spectacular church, but he wishes to do so without burdening his people with heavy taxes. A troll offers to complete the task in an unreasonable time if the king will give him the sun and the moon. Yet if the king learns the troll's name, the king released from his debt. Sometimes, the tale requires that the man give up his young son. As it becomes apparent that the troll will make the deadline, the king worries and wandering through the forest, he hears something. When the troll comes to claim his terrible price, the man reveals the troll's name. Startled, the troll falls down.