“A Doll’s House, Part 2” by Lucas Hnath, produced by Lennie Magida and directed by Claire Derriennic, opened virtually at Silver Spring Stage this weekend. The original production premiered at the South Coast Repertory in April 2017 and opened on Broadway later that month at the John Golden Theatre. The play received eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Play. Laurie Metcalf won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Nora.
If you haven’t guessed, this play is based on the classic, “A Doll’s House,” by Henrik Ibsen. The story jumps 15 years after Nora Helmer (Jacquelin Youm) walked out on her husband and children. She has come back to finalize her divorce from Torvald (David Dubov) and has to face his questions, and those of her daughter, Emmy (Sophie Isbell), about why she left. Nora also has to deal with the children’s nanny, Anne Marie (Greta Boeringer), whom she left to raise her offspring. While Nora was on her own, she has become a successful writer who encourages other wives to leave their husbands and young women to avoid marriage.
The play opens as Nora comes home and meets with Anne Marie, the former nanny, now housekeeper. She reveals her life since she left and that she must obtain a divorce for legal reasons. When Torvald comes home unexpectedly, the bitterness he feels to his wife surfaces, and they verbally volley with each other. Later, Anne Marie returns and suggests Nora should meet with her daughter, Emmy. Nora has not wanted to see any of her children. When Emmy drops by, mother and daughter open up to each other about their feelings concerning Nora’s abandonment. Nora learns how the family had to cope with the scandal she left behind. Torvald returns and tries to make amends with his spouse but, again, their emotions get the better of them.
Hnath has created an interesting script. The play is still obviously set in the late 1800s, but the language is fairly modern (including expletives). The costumes are purposely not accurate to what Scandinavians would have worn in that era. This is the playwright’s and director’s efforts to make the themes more universal.
This production of ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ is full of very interesting characters and themes that will make you rethink your ideas of feminism, marriage, and family.
This is a four-character play and Nora is on stage from beginning to end. There is little action and the interaction is almost all verbal. This is what they call an actors’ play, meaning the rich roles are an actor’s dream and the casts’ ability can make or break the production.
The cast in the Silver Spring Stage’s production is up to the challenge. Youm is a larger-than-life and assertive Nora. She is an imposing woman with a strong voice and when she interacts with the others, dominates. This is a very different Nora than the original “A Doll’s House.” In this interpretation, we can imagine her as successful and independent but she is never really sympathetic. Her behavior as selfish and self-absorbed.
Dubov’s Torvald is more multi-dimensional than his estranged wife, who is the same self-centered woman throughout the play. Torvald has been scarred by her abandonment. He is naturally bitter, but still makes efforts to appease Nora and go on with his own life. In the Ibsen tale, Nora was controlled by her husband but now, the roles have reversed. Dubov reflects that anger and bewilderment as he tries to understand Nora.
Greta Boeringer also gives an interesting performance as Anne Marie. She shows the audience that, despite her usual cheerful demeanor, she also harbors anger and bitterness towards Nora. Ann Marie reminds the audience that, in the end, Nora and Torvald are affluent and she is not. She does not have the options that her employers do and had to make hard choices based on her financial needs. Ann Marie reminds us that feminism, as we talk about it today, is really an upper-class phenomenon. The lower classes had to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Anne Marie had to become the children’s mother out of necessity, not choice.
Isbell is making one of her first theatrical appearances as Emmy and is one of which to be proud. She creates an Emmy who has survived a hard childhood due to her mother’s absence. She is stronger and more resilient than her mother was at that age. She views marriage and family as her choice to make, not a choice determined by society. Isbell and Youm are touching, poignant, and reveal their true characters in their scene together.
Derriennic’s direction allows her actors to emote to the camera. She has helped them develop these characters so we ask even more questions about them when the show is over. Derriennic also did some clever things, like having the actors pass food plates and drinks to each other so it appears they are performing together instead of at separate locations.
Emily Smith’s set also creates the illusion that the characters are in one space by using the same backdrop for everyone. Javon Jones’ lighting and Steve Deming’s sound designs compliment the play well. Erin Bone Steele designed the costumes, makeup, and hair which are in keeping with the intent of the play — blurring the lines of time and place.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” is full of very interesting characters and themes that will make you rethink your ideas of feminism, marriage, and family. I recommend that this play be viewed with other people, if possible. The production is so thought-provoking, it begs for discourse.
Running Time: One hour and 50 minutes with one intermission.
Advisory: Strong language which may not be suitable for young children.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” is presented by Silver Spring Stage and runs virtually from April 16, 2021 until May 8, 2021, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. Tickets can be purchased here. For more information about this and future productions, please go to their website.