At the Brooklyn Academy of Music, once a night, John Turturro has been climbing a steeple. To a quiet drumbeat, he goes hand over hand up the side of a tilting house, and when he reaches the top, he does not beat his chest like King Kong.
“I’m just trying to be careful,” he said last week.
His wife and friends watch from below, panicked and exhilarated, and the audience feels the same, joined together for a few minutes in the timeless tension of wondering whether or not a man is going to fall.
This finale of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, which opened May 19 at BAM and plays there through June 9, is not exactly as Ibsen wrote it. In the original, the master builder of the title, Halvard Solness, climbs his tower off-stage, his progress relayed by those below, with thrilling dialogue like, “He climbs and climbs. He will soon be at the top now.” For this stripped-down production, director Andrei Belgrader puts the tower on stage, and keeps the worst of Ibsen’s dialogue off it. Five years ago, in BAM’sEndgame, Mr. Belgrader and Mr. Turturro were praised for finding unexpected humor in Beckett, and here they have worked a similar miracle: wringing life from one of the dreariest playwrights in the canon. This is a Master Builder for the gut, not the mind.