A Doll's House, Part 2

Courage To Face Extreme Adversity

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The year was 1868 when the ‘Father of Modern Drama,' exiled Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen wrote one of his most famous works: A Doll's House. Ibsen's three-act play that dealt with the fate of a married woman living in Norway who wasn't afforded the simple opportunities to have self-fulfillment in a male-dominated world was very controversial. It caused a great deal of barbarity, and many were offended by its message, however, after the death of Ibsen in 2006, the centennial of Ibsen's death, A Doll's House was the most performed play of the year.

Playwright Lucas Hnath gives us the sequel, ‘A Doll's House, Part 2.' A story where some say it is a ‘Feminist Piece' about the protagonist Nora Helmer who is seeking security, happiness, and freedom. The play "picks up after Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House concludes.

'A Doll House, Part 2 takes place in the last decade of the nineteenth century 15 years later in 1894 in Christiana, Norway. As the audience dims into the darkness, a light beams upon a door. This is where we hear someone persistently knocking at the Helmer house. Nora (Sandra Marquez), a young wife and mother, who willingly left her family and nursemaid behind to free herself from society restraints, is standing on the other side of the door. As the maid opens the door, Nora pauses and gaze upon her past, the home that she fled and ask the nursemaid a discomfited favor from the people she has abandoned.

dolls-house_3Anne Marie (Barbara E. Robertson) does an excellent job as the nursemaid. She is an old but faithful quick-witted housekeeper, who opens the door to allow Nora to enter her forgotten world. Shock, seeing Nora as if she has seen a ghost dressed in well to do clothing, she welcomes the familiar stranger into her former home. Pleasantries from Nora are presented to make the awkward moment of her necessary arrival easier, but the request Nora is about to make will change the conversation into a nasty dispute of excuses and regrets.

After being told that Torvald Helmer (Yasen Peyankov) Nora's husband, a banker by trade is not home, Nora asks Anne Marie to guesstimate about what she believes happened to her after she left. In a time where women didn't have any rights, Anne's answers were very bleak and ambiguous. Nora shares with her that she has become a successful feminist novelist and is doing quite well for herself.

Although, the nursemaid is happy for Nora she knows that a multitude of problems lie ahead when Torvald and their daughter Emmy Helmer (Celeste M. Cooper) encounter her presence. Norva unexpected and unnoticed visit back home comes with a twist. During an issue with a prominent figure regarding her book, Nora returns to work on a plan to finalize her divorce from Torvald, but something as simple as signing some legal papers comes with a cost much more significant than both of them imagined.

Hnath's sequel of Ibsen's proto-feminist ‘A Doll's House' is a daring, dramatic piece of work in which he imagines how Nora Helmer's life after leaving her family might have evolved from 1879 to 1894. Although the play is set in the nineteenth century and the wardrobe says that it is, the audacious language is written in the 21st-century idiom, making this funny play a realistic drama and farce. We also noticed the Voss bottle water which seems out of period, but hey, we give them points for using bottled water from Norway.

The original storyline of A Doll's House was written about real life issues Ibsen friend experiences with her husband. Doll’s House Part 2, which premiered at the South Coast Repertory, in April 2017, then on Broadway at the John Golden Theatre is an updated version of the original work with the great cast of Peyankov, Marquez, Robertson, and Cooper.

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Cooper, who always seems to own every role she plays (BLKS, Doppelganger, Familiar) provides us with her usual greatness as the daughter that life seems to have been better without her mother. Peyankov and Marquez are so transfixing in their performance that many in the audience will believe the play is telling the story of their lives.

Let's Play recommends A Doll's House, Part 2 at the Steppenwolf Theatre.

Steppenwolf Presents the Chicago Premiere of
A Doll's House, Part 2
Written by Lucas Hnath
Directed by Robin Witt
Now Playing Through March 17, 2019

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