Total Rating: 
April 1, 2017
April 27, 2017
July 23, 2017
New York
New York
Theater Type: 
John Golden Theater
Theater Address: 
252 West 45th Street
Running Time: 
90 min
Lucas Hnath
Sam Gold

What happened after Nora slammed the door? We get one possibility in A Doll's House Part 2, Lucas Hnath's vibrant sequel to Henrik Ibsen's landmark 1879 play.

The new work opens 15 years after Nora had been stifled enough in her marriage and walked out the door. A four-hander, Hnath's conceit presents the aftermath with challenging questions and crisp dialogue but at the end, there are no concrete answers.

The stylized play has dialogue in a totally millennial style. When Nora, played with zest and authority by Laurie Metcalf, arrives at the door, her power suit by David Zinn is 19th century, but her talk sounds a lot like 2017. She has gained her longed-for independence, had experiences, and earned an identity of her own, but she paid dearly for it. Now she again faces situations regarding that independence and the institution of marriage. Her problems are legal, and when she meets with her husband, Torvald (Chris Cooper), it is because she needs him to divorce her.

Directed by Sam Gold on one set, the four characters take their turns to incisively define their feelings toward Nora. Miriam Buether designed a spare space that is brightly lit by Jennifer Tipton so that Nora quickly notices that all her things were discarded, leaving obvious gaps. Except for some straight chairs and a table, there are no furnishings, no piano, no paintings, no desks — all gone. There is a box of tissues and a lot of confrontation as each character faces up to Nora and then leaves, with Nora losing one more link to her old life. She had expected her visit to move more briskly and more efficiently than this.

Despite Nora's legal problems, her resolve has strengthened over the years, and Metcalf's intense performance illustrates this. Her wide gesturing and broad poses suggests how confined she had felt in her marriage. She is now confident that in another 15 years, all women will have rights, be totally independent and can choose the life they want. She declares this to a theater audience who realizes that even in the 21st century, the battle for women's rights continues and may well have to pick up speed in coming years. Meanwhile, however, Nora needs Torvald's help.

Jayne Houdyshell plays Anne Marie, her maid/nanny/her children's nanny, a long-suffering, salty housekeeper who has taken on the responsibility for Torvald and the children when Nora walked out the door. Her dry, keenly-timed humor belies what she has sacrificed in her own life while Nora got her independence. Now Anne Marie has the chance to tell Nora.

Playing Emmy, Nora's daughter who never knew her mother, Condala Rashad is winning as she cunningly stings Nora with resentments of her own. Will she help Nora? Not a chance. Playing the stolid Torvald, Chris Cooper is splendid in a subtle performance that lands a powerful punch.

When Nora walks out again, she will face much the same problems she did 15 years ago. Well-seasoned with comedy and sentiment, A Doll's House - Part 2 is worth seeing, but how you now feel about her is totally up to you.

Laurie Metcalf (Nora), Chris Cooper (Torvald), Jayne Houdyshell (Anne Marie), Condola Rashad (Emmy).
Set: Miriam Buether; Costumes: David Zinn; Lighting: Jennifer Tipton; Sound: Leon Rothenberg; Hair and Makeup: Luc Verschuren/Campbell Young Associates
This review first appeared in, 5/17
Elizabeth Ahlfors
Date Reviewed: 
May 2017