“A Doll’s House, Part 2”
Long Wharf Theatre
Long Wharf Theatre is currently presenting a rather unusual production of Lucas Hnath’s play, “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” This play is set fifteen years after “A Doll’s House” ended and concerns Nora’s desire to resolve some unfinished business with her husband Torvald. What makes this presentation of the show so unorthodox is that the setting (designed by Arnulfo Maldonado) is rather tropical and lush, befitting a play more along the lines of Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana” or “Suddenly, Last Summer.” This isn’t a real problem, though it often seems at odds with the content and intent of Hnath’s play.
I have seen this play before, with a more straightforward set design (essentially a single room), which worked well, though Long Wharf Theatre’s production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is more exotic and unexpected. What certainly works in this current show is Maggie Bofill’s portrayal of Nora—she manages to make the character more sympathetic and understandable than seemed imaginable. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” runs just ninety minutes, without an intermission, and director Will Davis keeps the pacing of the show pretty steady. So, while “A Doll’s House, Part 2” isn’t completely successful at Long Wharf Theatre, it certainly makes a startling impression.
Upon walking into the theatre, one can see the set, overflowing with foliage, which extends all the way to the back of the stage. This hothouse atmosphere is eye-opening, but, once the play actually starts, there is the lingering question about why director Will Davis chose this particular setting. Not to give too much of the plot away, but Nora returns to Torvald not because she wants to make amends for walking out, but rather because she is in a bind and needs a divorce from her husband. The housekeeper Anne Marie (a rather stern Mia Katigbak) has arranged this visit without really knowing Nora’s intent. Costume designer Dana Botez’s decision to use flowery prints for the costumes certainly is of a piece with the garden-like set design, but one feels. at times. that a more severe and period-like look for the characters would work better.
The one exception in the design onstage looking a bit overgrown is the Victorian chair that is seen centerstage throughout the show. Indeed, much is made of this chair, and it almost seems that when each character takes ownership of the chair, they hold the upper hand in the play. The overall design of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” does deserve credit for establishing a certain “look” for the show, even if it doesn’t always serve the play perfectly. Lighting designer Barabra Samuels does well in illuminating the various parts of the stage and her work is quite atmospheric and incisive.
Besides Nora and Anne Marie, the only other characters in the play are Torvald and Nora’s adult daughter Emmy. Katigbak, as Anne Marie, does well, as do Jorge Cordova as Torvald and Sasha Diamond as Emmy, but the real centerpiece of the show is Maggie Bofill’s Nora. Having seen this role played aggressively, Bofill’s decision to bring a somewhat less harsh look and feel to the character is refreshing. Even delivering the same lines, this actress is warmer and almost motherly, as well as seeming more vulnerable, despite the character’s overall drive and forcefulness. Indeed, Bofill’s multi-layered performance is probably the most successful part of this production.
If nothing else, Long Wharf Theatre’s production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is an example of presenting a play in a style that one could never imagine, but somehow also making a statement in this variation from the norm. The ninety minutes of this “A Doll’s House, Part 2” do go by rather quickly and it’s safe to say this presentation of this work is quite unlike any you have ever experienced with this play before. So, even as the play unfolds straightforwardly, this production does offer some memorable and unusual visual elements. For better or for worse, this staging of “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is a one-of-a-kind.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT through May 26, 2019. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call the box office at 203-787-4282.
Photo: (L-R): Maggie Bofill and Mia Katigbak
Photo by T. Charles Erickson