Home Builders – Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory are two theater folks of the same breed. They are both well-versed in the classics, willing to try out new experiences, and dedicated to the idea of a theater for the sake of it. The duo was first introduced to the theater world in “My Dinner With Andre.” They were cast in this play by director Louis Malle who transformed their lives and friendship into a well-directed and smoothly-delivered play. Shawn, Gregory, and Malle would letter reunite in another team-up to produce another theatre classic named Vanya On 42nd Street. 

Vanya on 42nd Street came as a filmed document produced by Anton Chekhov Productions. Shawn and Gregory had earlier rehearsed the act with their friends for years, mainly for pleasure. Recently the experienced theatre duo did something similar in the new film titled A Master Builder. However, instead of repeatedly performing Chekov in a crumbling ancient theater, they have opted for rehearsing this film, produced by Henrik Ibsen and directed by Jonathan Demme, in private homes. Also, Demme shot the movie in a sunlit New York club. 

Shawn and Gregory’s Characterization in A Master Builder 

Shawn was stared in this movie as Halvard Solness, and Gregory was starred as Knut Brovik. The film follows Solness’s story as an architect whose colleagues, and not even his former boss – Brovik, could compete with his success. Solness maintained his successful position using emotional manipulation to hold back his protégé (Ragnar) and his attentive bookkeeper (Kossai Fosli). He achieved this by romantically pairing them together and then threatening to break them up if they dared to leave him. 

Eventually, Solness met his match in Hilda Wangel (Lisa Joyce), a young woman who visited and claimed to have met him when she was 13 years. Hilda claimed that Solness made sexual advances during their first meeting, promising that he’d return and sweep her away in 10 years. 

The writer did not state the reason why Hilda showed up at Solness’s doorstep unannounced. However, he becomes captivated by her, and she starts to manipulate the manipulator. Hilda’s only impediment was Mrs. Solness (Julie Hagerty). Mrs. Solness is a cold woman who does not like her husband but would rather not leave him to anyone else. 

History of A Master Builder 

This movie, produced by Demme, was initially called Fear of Failing. This title was considered terrible by many people and was subsequently changed to A Master Builder. People, however, did not precisely consider the movie to be The Master Builder. 

Shawn’s translation of the play, initially written by Ibsen, came with some changes to the story. One of the changes included adding a framing device that features Solness in a deathbed where he was probably dreaming about Hilda’s visit. 

Shawn also brought the undertones of sexual needs in Ibsen’s play to the fore in his version. Joyce’s performance as Hilda in the play contributed to making this happen. She put up a stunning act and was simultaneously flirty, giddy, wounded, and sociopathic. All of this contributed to making the character seem like Solness’s subconscious conjured it up to torment him for fulfilling his desires to others’ detriment. 


Overall, A Master Builder is a fantastic play with top-notch quality delivery from its characters. It is effortlessly enjoyable, and you will enjoy seeing it.