March 15, 2015

An impeccable performance by the Australian actor John Noble lends gravity and a measure of emotional depth to “Posterity,” the new play written and directed by Doug Wright about Henrik Ibsen in his later days. With his face fringed in imposing whiskers, his brow stormy with incipient outrage, and a Grinch-like grimace almost cemented in place, Mr. Noble does a formidable job of making a flesh-and-blood figure of Ibsen, renowned for his standoffishness and chilliness in public, if not in private. Mr. Noble’s achievement is the more remarkable given the speechy and artificial nature of Mr. Wright’s drama, one of those “portrait of the artist as a genius with feet of clay” plays, similar to John Logan’s “Red,” about the painter Mark Rothko. Mr. Wright, who won the Pulitzer Prize for “I Am My Own Wife,” clearly has brushed up on his subject from all angles. But “Posterity” feels like a minimally animated study in theatrical history. It fails to achieve the lifelikeness, not to mention the dramatic intensity, that Ibsen bequeathed as a legacy, or rather one of his legacies, to modern playwriting.