A Doll’ House, Part 2 enthralls the audience between the opening and closing of a door.

A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2: Comedy/Drama by Lucas Hnath. Directed by Les Waters.  Berkeley Rep, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley. (510) 647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org. Co-production with Huntington Theatre Company. September 6–October 21, 2018

A Doll’ House, Part 2 enthralls the audience between the opening and closing of a door. Rating: ★★★★★

Henrik Ibsen in his seminal play A Doll’s House possibly created the best, or least the most remembered exit line in a play when his protagonist Nora exits the stage slamming the door leaving her husband and children behind. Lucas Hnath has wisely bookended his codicil to Ibsen’s play with that door being actually and symbolically opened and closed. This time Nora’s feminist future is uncertain but she is no longer “doll.”

It is 15 years past that scandalous seminal event and Nora returns as successful writer living the life of a feminist. She has returned to her home as a successful rich woman involved in a potential scandal and needs Torvald’s help. That scandal, like the events in the original play requires paper work. As was the law in the late1800s the assets of the wife are controlled by the husband and she has never been legally divorced. It was erroneously assumed she was dead but there is no death certificate.

Nora arrives seeking the help of the nanny Anne Maria (Nancy E. Carroll) who has raised the children she left behind. Nora is asking Anne Maria to intercede with Torvald to file for divorce. Hnath has created modern colloquial dialog for Ann Marie that is anachronistic adding a touch of humor at the same time showing her inner strength since her life is also at the mercy of a male dominated world. Nora’s unabashed telling the details of her past 15 years carries the theme Ibsen introduced in the original play and is fortified if not fully accepted. This interchange with the strong willed Anne Maria does not allow Nora to be pardoned for her past but Nora’s inner strength prevails.

Hnath has written a four scene play using only four characters that brilliantly gives each equal an opportunity to vent their opinions still allowing Nora to be his standard bearer for the feminist world. With the entrance of Emmy (Nikki Massoud) Hanth creates a daughter that potentially is following in Nora’s footsteps. She works in a bank and is engaged to a banker and is willing to forge a death certificate in Nora’s married name thus allowing Nora to protect her life with an alias name. Hnath’s dialog for Emmy suggests that she is her mother’s daughter yet as youth will have it may not follow in her footsteps.

There is a tense build up to the unexpected arrival of Torvald (John Judd) who dominates the stage exuding strength and masking anger. He makes you feel Torvald’s ambivalence and Hnath gives him lines that demonstrate his inner turmoil yet he maintains his dignity even though Nora’s popular book is simple a masked autobiography that does not do him justice. “ I made assumptions about you, you made assumptions about me” suggesting they both were at fault about the breakup of their marriage.

This time when Nora slams to door on her exit Hnath has given her brilliant hopeful words about the possible future world for feminist equality yet knowing that in her present predicament life may be very difficult. It brought the audience to their feet.

The cast gave each of their characters verisimilitude that would make Hnath proud. Mary Beth Fisher’s Nora radiates strength without ever questioning her initial decision to leave 15 years ago leaving the doll image behind. Nancy E. Carroll creates an Anne Marie not only with her strong verbal attacks but with the use of her facial muscles to express doubt, anger and strength. Nikki Massoud as Emmy brought a breath of youth’s optimism into the play. John Judd’s as Torvald was a marvel of attempting to be fair, yet obviously deeply hurt for Nora’s lack of understanding.

Les Water’s usual brilliant direction was fully supported by his creative staff as the action plays out on an elegant, yet bare set with only a table and three straight backed chairs and the much needed door on stage right.

CAST: Nancy E. Carroll (Anne Marie); Mary Beth Fisher (Nora); John Judd (Torvald); Nikki Massoud (Emmy).


CREATIVE TEAM: Andrew Boyce (scenic designer), Annie Smart (costume designer), Yi Zhao (lighting designer), and James Ballen (sound designer).

Running time is one hour and 35 minutes without intermission and is a MUST SEE play.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworlim2.com.