By Sandi Durell
Playwright Lucas Hnath thinks he has the answers in this smarty pants sequel to the 1879 Ibsen classic A Doll’s House. After walking out, slamming the door, Nora Helmer, now 15 years later, has recreated herself as a wordly woman of substance, making it on her own in the aftermath of leaving her husband Torvald and their three children. Seeing and feeling the manipulation of the times that gave her little to no rights as a married woman in the eyes of the law and society, she desperately needed to escape. . . at all costs. She has now become a wealthy and controversial writer, using a pseudonym, expounding on eliminating marriage, the need to change social mores and expectations and, instead, enjoying relationships as they arise, without any ties – an emancipation!
However, Nora has a big problem. Torvald (Chris Cooper) never filed for divorce, putting her in a desperate situation legally and, according to Norwegian law, making her a possible criminal. She returns to her old home hoping to find a solution and help from long time nanny, Anne Marie (the impeccable, witty Jayne Houdyshell). The sharp and intelligent dialogue, filled with today’s vulgarities, is helmed by director Sam Gold who brings it to sizzling life in separate encounters, one on one.
Although the setting (Miriam Buether) and costumes (David Zinn) are still late 19 Century, the dialogue is anything but.
Laurie Metcalf, as Nora, is thrilling to watch and listen to, as her soliloquies on the joys of freedom reach limitless proportions of pulsating emotions and skill – – marriage makes one more cruel than kind as we change for the worse, we woo and woo until commitment and then there’s no reason to woo. We ache for more. . . and are unfaithful.
Torvald, a humorless but proud fragment of a man, couldn’t care less about Nora’s predicament, as they wage war. When Nora’s smart and clever daughter Emmy (the lovely Condola Rashad) is brought into the mix to be used as Nora’s weapon, Emmy announces she will be getting married to someone at her father’s bank, and is chastised by Nora for failing to see her mother’s revolutionary views. “In the future they will look back on our stupidity . . . in 20-30 years. . . you don’t know what I’m trying to do for you.”
It’s a battlefield of conflicts as Nora and Torvald eventually reflect, his love for her still ever present. Seemingly, it would appear that they are in resolve but Nora must staunchly follow the path she has chosen and leaves, without slamming the door this time.
Photos: Bridget Lacombe
“A Doll’s House, Part 2 – Golden Theater, West 45 Street, NYC – run time: 90 minutes