Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Doll's House Part 2 at Shakes

Doll House Part 2 by Lucas Hnath is being performed at the Orlando Shakes (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803) through February 23, 2019. In the final scene of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 groundbreaking masterwork, Nora Helmer makes the shocking decision to leave her husband and children, and begin a life on her own. This climactic event—when Nora slams the door on everything in her life—instantly propelled world drama into the modern age. In A Doll’s House, Part 2, many years have passed since Nora’s exit. Now, there’s a knock on that same door. Nora has returned. But why? And what will it mean for those she left behind?

The simple set designed by Stephen Jones consisted of a curved wall with one huge Victorian door.  The paint was chipped with time. The play did indeed begin with a knock at the door. When Anne Marie (Anne Hering) answered the door all the lights on stage illuminated to their top setting creating a blinding sunburst effect as Nora (Suzanne O'Donnell) entered. For some perspective, Pam and I watched the original Ibsen play as a live 1959 telebroadcast. Nora in that production was a flippant housewife demurring to her husband's wishes. She forged a signature on a loan in order to whisk her husband to Italy for the sake of his health. That act indentured her to try and pay the loan off by begging her husband for small sums of money. Instead of a Christmas present she begged him for a small sum of cash.

When Nora returned, she was a self-made woman of means. She had become an author and was very successful at it. She was a feminist firmly believing that women do not need men for their happiness. The Part 2 production is set 15 years after Nora left her family which would be around 1894. Women would not gain the right to vote for another 26 years, but Nora was well ahead of her time believing she could make a difference through her writing which had to be authored with a pseudonym. She wrote about her marriage to Torvald (Steven Lane) and the book encouraged women to take charge of their own lives. A judge was upset by her message, so he found out who she really was and discovered that she was still married. Torvald had never filed for divorce. It was more convenient for him to think she had died than to face the shame of filing for divorce. She needed that divorce to truly be free. This play focused on that quest. Despite her success, she was still beholden to unfair laws that made her the property of a man she had not seen for 15 years. She needed to sit down with her husband to again demand her freedom. I identified with her desire for artistic freedom.

The language is decidedly modern with some cursing that seemed out of place compared to the original Ibsen play. These outbursts do offer some comedic relief. People in the audience who had suffered through divorce were nodding their heads in solidarity as Nora pontificated about the need for freedom. Love and affection were cherished, but after marriage she felt people changed. They no longer wooed their partners and took them for granted. This is what caused affection to turn to resentment. This was a decidedly modern message.

Tickets are $32 to $44.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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