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Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper Star in "A Doll’s House, Part 2" at the Golden Theatre
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Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper Star in "A Doll’s House, Part 2" at the Golden Theatre

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Scott Rudin, Eli Bush
Barry Diller, Carole Shorenstein Hays
et al.
with Exec. Producers:
Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson

Present:
Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper
Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad
In:
A Doll’s House, Part 2
(A Doll’s House, Part 2 Website)

By Lucas Hnath
Directed by Sam Gold

At the
Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street
New York, NY
212.239.6200

Scenic Design by Miriam Buether
Costume Design by David Zinn
Lighting Design by Jennifer Tipton
Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg
Hair & Makeup Design by
Luc Verschueren/Campbell Young Associates
Projection Design by Peter Nigrini
Production Stage Manager: J. Jason Daunter
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Press Representative: DKC/O&M
Production Manager: Aurora Productions
Company Manager: Kendall Booher

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 16, 2017


Watching the fine four-actor ensemble in Lucas Hnath’s new sequel to Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, adding the Part 2, I experienced mixed feelings. The concept is intriguing, and I had always been fascinated by Ibsen’s iconic Nora Helmer, who walks out on her family in 1879 Norway, to release her sense of suffocation and to make her own way in the world. But, in the original play, she leaves three children to the care of their nanny, Anne Marie, and an ensemble of actors in three acts gives texture and detail to the magnetic, sophisticated dialogue. In this sequel, directed by the very busy Sam Gold (he’s favorably reviewed on these pages this season for The Glass Menagerie), Nora (Laurie Metcalf) returns to her husband, Torvald’s (Chris Cooper) home, fifteen years later. She finds Anne Marie (Jayne Houdyshell) still caring for her children, Torvald still working at the bank, and daughter, Emmy (Condola Rashad) engaged to be married. Mr. Hnath writes contemporary, confrontational dialogues for two actors at a time. Mr. Gold has set an expansive, entry parlor, devoid of arrangements of furnishings, like a boxing ring with no ropes. I say contemporary, because, in spite of late 19th century clothing and ornate, plaster décor, the play’s dialogue includes coarse profanities and shrill screaming matches. Ms. Metcalf is wound up in a psychic knot, veins popping and eyes gleaming, like a panther devouring its prey. Torvald, still alone and longing for Nora’s return to his table and his bed, never has a chance.

The intricacies of Ibsen’s original plot seem irrelevant here, as the new plot twist relates to Nora’s career as a writer of works that further the emancipation of women from the shackles of marriage. Women love and buy her books. Nora’s arrival costume is luxurious, with lace and embroidered jacket and blouse, feathery hat, taffeta skirt, two-tone leather, laced boots, and good hair. Nora has come home, not to see her children or their devoted nanny, nor to apologize to anyone, but to demand from Torvald an official divorce. He had told Nora that the divorce was final, or it was assumed to be so, but he never signed the paperwork, some fifteen years ago. Now, Nora is being sued by a judge, whose wife is leaving him, thanks to Nora’s books. Nora must apologize to her readers for her writings, the judge claims. As a married woman in Norway at that time, she could be convicted of a crime, for working for pay without her husband’s permission. Nora insists on a signed divorce document, and Torvald demurs. Let the match begin. Not only do Mr. Cooper and Ms. Metcalf match wits and tempers on the only stiff chairs in the room, but they even land on the floor, like boxers in the ring, with only the audience doing the count. Nora also jousts verbally with Anne Marie, who had given her own children up for adoption to care for Nora’s brood. Later she goes down for the count with Emmy, who’s in love and looking forward to being married on her own.

My mixed feelings resulted from Torvald’s obvious torment, as the audience could sense the latent chemistry between husband and wife, after all these years, and, for a moment, he thought he had a fighting chance. Emmy, too, seemed primed with an emotional firewall, not counting on warmth or remorse from the mother who walked out. One sensed her restrained and repressed longing, as well. Ms. Rashad was convincing as a strong young woman with a mind and motif of her own. And, Anne Marie needed a break from her daily duties, after over a decade of lonely cooking, cleaning, coddling, and organizing for this wounded household. What modern man, I might ask, would wait so patiently and devotedly for his estranged wife to return, without bringing in a new woman to head up his house. But, in Mr. Hnath’s play, Torvald stoically remains faithful. In fact, Nora brags to Ann Marie and to Torvald that she’s had her flings and frolics. Nora’s been hardened by her societal struggles, and she wants to return to her career and her newly gained freedom. Mr. Hnath and Mr. Gold needn’t have included the frequent profanities that lace each verbal bout, especially between Ms. Houdyshell and Ms. Metcalf. The plot speaks for itself, and after all this is 1894, or so. Miriam Buether’s set is perfectly gorgeous in its stark amplitude. David Zinn’s costumes are outstanding in period detail and décor. Jennifer Tipton’s lighting shines a spotlight on the protagonists, while Leon Rothenberg’s sound keeps the dialogue stunningly clear.



Chris Cooper and Laurie Metcalf
in "A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2"
Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe



Jayne Houdyshell and Laurie Metcalf
in a scene from "A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2"
Courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net