Being able to project your voice without the help of microphones is considered a lost art for actors of the stage today.

There seems to be this notion that their perceived need for technological amplification is a crutch, only used by actors who can’t tap into their inner Ethel Merman to belt out every word so that even the balcony can hear perfectly. And while there can be practical dimensions to this “to mic, or not to mic” decision, it’s also an artistic decision, one that should keep in mind what sort of sound design best captures what the production is trying to achieve.

Primarily, this decision lands on the spectrum between naturalism and theatricality; two productions currently on Broadway testify to how voice projection interacts with either end of this spectrum.

I sat second row for Summer, 1976, and I’m fairly certain neither Laura Linney nor Jessica Hecht are mic’d up, which fits the show; David Auburn’s two-hander resides firmly in the realm of the theatrical — dueling monologues; they’re sharing interior thoughts in a way they rarely would in “reality” — so the heightened voices that Linney and Hecht must don to audibly project without aid is yet another reminder that this stage does not double for “real life.”

A Doll’s House, closer to the other end of the aforementioned spectrum, utilizes microphones to relocate Ibsen’s hallowed text into more naturalistic terrain. The play’s venerated status might be the reason the line deliveries in most revivals adopt the air of “elevated stuffiness” traditionally bestowed/cursed upon classics; the conceit of this specific revival — to differentiate it from the countless past iterations — is to strip the play of its flowery, almost melodramatic vernacular.

Playwright Amy Herzog’s new version accomplishes a lot of this, as does the noticeably-amplified sound design, which allows the cast to speak in a regular, conversational, almost head-voice tone — a far-cry from the volume at which Ibsen is commonly overacted.

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