Nora Is Back With Some Explaining To Do In ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’
Emily J. Weitzon May 22, 2022
When Nora walks out the door at the end of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House,” the audience is left to wonder if she will ever return to her husband and children. First debuted in the late 1800s, the play challenged the expectations of women in 19th century society. Even though in some ways we’ve come a long way since then, in other ways, we still have a long way to go.
This makes it a particularly powerful time to look at Lucas Hnath’s 2017 play “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” which is being performed at the Quogue Community Hall by the Hampton Theatre Company from May 26 through June 12.
When the door slammed on 1879 Norway in Ibsen’s play, a young wife and mother left behind her family, freeing herself from the shackles of societal constraints. Now, Hnath brings us back to the scene 15 years later, and his play opens with Nora walking back through that door with an awkward favor to ask of the people she abandoned.
“It was a bold move on the part of the playwright,” said George Loizides, who’s directing the upcoming performance. “The idea that he could build a play called ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ was outrageous.”
And yet, when it debuted on Broadway a few years ago, it was met with critical acclaim. For audiences who aren’t familiar with the Ibsen play, there’s no need to have seen the first to understand the second. The characters, which include Nora, her husband, her daughter, and the housekeeper, speak for themselves. With intense dialogue, the tension created by Nora’s choice to leave is clear from the outset.
What Loizides finds most compelling about Hnath’s play is that there is no villain. Even in a situation like this, where a woman could be easily vilified for walking out on her family, the humanity and compassion come through.
“Each character comes into this play with their own view of what Nora did by walking out,” Loizides said. “What she created by walking out. Nobody is a bad guy. Nobody is a villain. Everyone’s views are valid. That’s an interesting perspective on what happened.”
What’s more about this particular play, Loizides said, is that it’s funny. The wit and the humor are a big part of what drew the company to want to perform it.
In fact, they’ve been waiting a long time to put on this production. The artistic committee of the Hampton Theatre Company works together to select upcoming plays, and this one was supposed to be performed in 2020. Then, of course, the world turned upside down. So the company, which includes Rosemary Cline, who plays Nora, and Andrew Botsford, who plays her husband, has been looking forward to this production for quite some time. Marianne Schmidt plays Anne Marie and Molly Brennan plays the role of Emma.
The show itself, Loizides said, is an interesting structure that allows the depth of the characters to really shine. With a simple set of just a couple of chairs, a table, and a bench, the action and dialogue take center stage.
“It’s a one-act play that runs 90 minutes,” Loizides said. “There are five scenes that run directly into each other. In a way, it’s like a tag-team boxing match. Nora is onstage the entire time.”
As she faces the people she left behind, powerful issues are raised. They’re issues that not only were revelatory for audiences of Ibsen’s day, but that also continue to resonate in new and provocative ways today.]
“Ibsen was writing about the nature of marriage, of love, of a woman’s responsibility to herself and to her family,” Loizides said. “The role society expects of women, and the barriers that are set up to keep women from having an equal place. I think those issues are still relevant today.”
As Cline, Botsford, Schmidt and Brennan gear up for the performance, there’s excitement in the air.
“We’re raring to go,” Loizides said. “This will be the last production of Hampton Theatre Company’s 37th season, and we want people to know we’re back. We’ve been doing this a long time, and we still love to do it. For someone who’s been acting and directing for 55 years, to still get excited about coming to rehearsals, that’s a good thing.”
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” will be performed May 26 through June 12, Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. An additional matinee performance will be offered on Saturday, June 11. Two bonus “talkbacks” with the cast will be offered after the performance on Friday, June 3, and the matinee on Sunday, June 5. All ticket holders will be required to show a photo ID and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance. Masks will be required inside the theater. Tickets are $36 ($31 seniors, $20 for students) at hamptontheatre.org
or 631-653-8955. Hampton Theatre Company is at 125 Jessup Avenue, Quogue.