A Doll’s House, Part 2
By Lucas Hnath
Directed by Cynthia White
Starring Suzanne O’Donnell
There’s a magical moment early in this play: when housemaid Anne-Marie (Anne Herring) opens the 10-foot high front door to reveal the returning Nora (O’Donnell), she’s surrounded in a supernatural field of white light. This lighting that lasts only a few seconds, but it implies she’s risen from the dead. Her return is imbued with the sort of power we ascribe to Jesus Christ. Fifteen years prior, she let expensive tastes draw her into a debt she was not legally allowed to take on. This drives her to abandon her husband Torvald and children. In Victorian Norway, this was as large disgrace as one could commit, and even worse than adultery. While gone, she struggled to live, and then writes a book about her life. Published under a pseudonym, it made her wealthy, but also a criminal as she was not actually divorced. Now she’s back, and with her emotional freedom fixed, she seeks the ultimate goal: the return of her life.
The topics here range over most all of the possible husband wife relations: fidelity, responsibility, respect, and laws that date back to Viking days. O’Donnell is always in control, even when it appears she may cry. Opposite her the elegant Steven Lane plays her semi-ex Torvald. She’s manipulative and she never holds the moral high ground, but she succeeds in the face of defeat. The resolution lies in the very modern ideas in her daughter Emmy (Ana Martinez Medina) proposes. Through the power of girl talk, Emmy points out the flaws in Nora’s arguments, and over all we have a thought-provoking story worth discussing on the way home.
The set is noteworthy. It’s a deceptively simple tall, all white semi-drum of a room, The oversized front door shrinks the family and emphasizes their doll-like life. Two semi-concealed doors lead to the inner sanctums of the Helmer household; here house maid Anne Marie (Anne Hering) retreats into their safety, while Emmy sallies forth to argue rationality and commitment to promises. And I send kudos to Stephen Jones for the excellent set and lighting.
Do not fear the century old norther European setting; this show plows happily into current concerns about the relative placement of male and female power and fear in the modern day. Just beware of any penetrating glanced form your date.