You might wonder why Rickman continues to bother with the theater at all, considering how much more remunerative film is and how it plays to a much wider audience. But theater, he notes, "is part of me, it's where I learned anything. It's in me, and it puts its hand up every so often and says, 'Oi, it's about time you used this.' " In addition to directing and acting in it, Rickman attends the theater as often as possible and will try to see Time Stands Still and The Merchant of Venice before Brooklyn rehearsal begins. "I'll go see anything," he offers. "I'm a willing listener, a willing viewer. The aim is to keep current."

No pillar of society: Amy Molloy as Frida Foldal and Rickman as Borkman
Roz Kavanagh
No pillar of society: Amy Molloy as Frida Foldal and Rickman as Borkman

And he's eager to assure viewers that John Gabriel Borkman is very current, despite its 1890s composition and setting. "To me, John Gabriel Borkman isn't an old play—it's brand-new and of the moment," he says. As to those who consider Ibsen rather hidebound, he absolutely dismisses the charge. Ibsen, he declares, "is thrilling and monumental and often very funny. Stuffy? Forget that. There won't be anything stuffed on view."

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