“A Doll’s House, Part 2”
TheaterWorks is currently presenting a striking production of Lucas Hnath’s fascinating play, “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Focusing on events that occur fifteen years after Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” ended, with Nora slamming the door shut, the playwright has come up with some imaginative scenes, which are enhanced by director Jenn Thompson’s presentation of this play. I would be one to think that sequels don’t always work, especially a sequel to a work as seminal as “A Doll’s House.” However, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” does work, thanks also in large part to the four fine actors in the cast. TheaterWorks’ production is definitely of interest and is worth seeing, even if you haven’t seen or read “A Doll’s House” recently.
One can tell that this production is going to be somewhat different and futuristic, just from looking at the set that Alexander Dodge has designed for the show. Embracing both some semblance of naturalism (in the design of the door), the outlines of the set are almost like lasers (there is a terrific assist by lighting designer Philip Rosenberg). While this would seem to work against the plot in the show, it’s dreamlike effect somehow dovetails nicely with Hnath’s play. However, with a set design that is basically an empty room, with just a couple period appropriate chairs for the actors to use, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” really needs strong performers for the play to succeed. Fortunately, TheaterWorks has found quite a skilled quartet of actors.
In the most pivotal (and largest) role in the play, Tasha Lawrence does extremely well as Nora. I have seen Lawrence to good effect in both “The Roommate” and “If I Forget,” and her work in this play is equally fine. When this actress makes her entrance as Nora, walking through the door that she once slammed shut, it is immediately apparent that this character has lived through some major experiences in the past fifteen years. Lawrence has a way with a line, and even with facial expressions, that almost reveal what she is thinking at almost any given moment. In this actress’ forceful performance, this Nora is completely different from the one in a “A Doll’s House,” but one can almost fill in the blanks of how this character has believably changed.
Lawrence is surrounded by an effective supporting cast. Besides Nora, the first scene of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” features the character of Anne Marie, wonderfully played by Amelia White. It is detailed in the play that Anne Marie has really raised the children Nora abandoned at the conclusion of “A Doll’s House,” but, while there is some recrimination, this character also has a warm feeling toward Nora. Appearing just right in her brown dress and apron (the spot-on costume design is by Alejo Vietti), White seems to summon up the period and place of the show just perfectly. As it turns out, Anne Marie is a more complex character than she at first seems, and this actress’ portrayal is ideal.
As Emmy, one of Nora’s children, now grown up and engaged to be married, Kira Player is just lovely and holds her own opposite Lawrence’s formidable Nora. The playwright has given his characters a great deal of intriguing lines and scenes, with the one between Nora and Emmy being especially notable. Without giving too much away, this confrontation, of sorts, between mother and daughter rings completely true and is satisfyingly multi-layered.
Getting to the biggest confrontation in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” however, that between Nora and her husband Torvald, Sam Gregory is very good as Torvald, and his scenes together with Lawrence are tantalizing and often unexpected. By conjuring up what Nora and Torvald might say to each other after fifteen years (having had no contact), the playwright has let his imagination run rampant, but, like just about every other encounter between the various characters in the play, these scenes are plausible and bring up some significant issues, such as, for example, whether people truly change.
This subject of change is at the very heart of “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” and this play illustrates that some things do indeed change, while others remain precisely the same. TheaterWork’s production seems to embrace that dichotomy beautifully, and the director’s vision of the show seems appropriate, and features a host of skillful performances. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is an unusual and deeply fanciful play, and TheatreWorks’ presentation of it is both notable and effective.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” continues performances at TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT through February 24, 2019. For tickets, please visit www.theaterworkshartfor.org or call the box office at 860-527-7838.
Photo: Tasha Lawrence and Sam Gregory
Photo by Lanny Nagler