How I worried about Nora’s kids after she left for the first time in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Now, in A Doll’s House, Part 2, just as shockingly as she left, Nora (Laurie Metcalf) comes back. She hasn’t come for a reconciliation with Torvald (Chris Cooper) who she walked out on fifteen years ago. Nor has she returned to beg for money. In fact, she’s wearing a fitted, fur-trimmed jacket, a plumed hat, and her dress is long and satiny with costly trimming.
The huffing and puffing nanny/housekeeper Anne Marie (Jayne Houdyshell) who had raised Nora, stayed on to raise the three children and continued there after they were grown to look after Torvald. Nora asks Anne Marie to guess what the audience is dying to know–how she’s made all her money. You’ll have to see the play to find out what Nora has been up to. No spoiler alerts from me! But the exasperation and resentment of Anne Marie make an uproarious contrast to Nora’s who is so thrilled with herself that you expect her to levitate.
Torvald is supposed to be at work, but when he comes home unexpectedly and finds Nora, you feel the percussion as the secrets they’ve kept and the lies they’ve told themselves and others volley between them.
Emmy, (Condola Rashad) as Nora’s youngest, had the least contact with her mother before she disappeared out that door, never even sending a gift or even a letter. It is she who shows up to meet her and give her point of view on how her mother should proceed to get out of the damage she’s wrought on herself and her family. You can tell by Emmy’s delivery, an off-key odd sing-song full of pleasantries that her mother’s leaving had an impact on her. It’s implied in her gestures and voice and the dream she has set for herself—to repeat her mother’s conventional marriage, but make it turn out right.
What makes A Doll House, Part 2, a stand-out is the clear conflicts, the dialogue, strong characterizations, pacing, and wit, elements that should be a requisite of every play, but rarely are. I think of my theater buddy remarking after so many plays, “And exactly why was this written?” Well, Lucas Hanth, in his Broadway debut, has certainly given us the why and the how.
Sam Gold’s direction kept the characters in motion and emotive in the stark room that emphasises the long, dark door. But at times, Torvald, still in pain by Nora’s leaving, is overshadowed by the brilliant light of the female characters.
It’s no wonder that Laurie Metcalf won the 2017 Tony for best actress for her role—the rapid-fire emotional changes that flickered over her face, in her voice, her hands, is astounding. The entire company walked away with Tony nominations. A Doll’s House Part 2 also earned Tony nominations for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play for Sam Gold Best Costume Design of a Play for David Zinn, and Best Lighting Design of a Play for Jennifer Tipton.
Whether coming in or going out, we care what happens to Nora. A Doll’s House, Part 3, anyone?