Curtain Call: ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ is riveting

The same script word for word is not a guarantee that you are going to see the same production if there are two different directors at two different theaters doing the same show. Such is the case for Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” It wasn’t but a few months ago when Hartford Stage did a production of Hnath’s play. If you saw that production, then you must see the Long Wharf production, which is so different that it will blow you away. Even if you didn’t see the Hartford production, you must see this Long Wharf production, it is sensational.

A Doll’s House, Part 2

The play is based on Hebrik Ibsen’s original work, “A Doll House,” which was originally produced in 1879. It’s the story of a wife named Nora who walks out on her husband and children to find herself, once she realizes her husband is not the man she thought he was. When she walked out the door of her home, George Bernard Shaw said it was “the door slam heard round the world.” Women didn’t just leave their husbands in the 1800s. Nora was a courageous woman. When the original play first opened, people protested the ending. They wanted Ibsen to change the ending. How could a woman do such a thing? Leaving her husband was bad enough, but leaving her children?

What playwright Hnath has done is to bring Nora back 15 years later to the house where her husband still lives. She has been very successful as a writer who advises women not to get married or to leave their husbands if they are not treated well. She had assumed that her husband signed the divorce papers when she left. He did not. And so now Nora can be in a great deal of trouble.

When I first walked into Long Wharf’s Main Stage, I stopped dead in my tracks. I know these plays well and they take place in Norway. So why was I suddenly looking at a jungle scene and hearing tropical bird and animal calls? I almost returned to the lobby, thinking I was in the wrong stage area. A volunteer saw my confusion and held up a playbill with the “Doll House” title. Really? What on earth was this set all about?

One has to turn to director Will Davis for this powerful interpretation of the play. That two fine directors at two venerable theaters should be so different is a lesson in theatre direction and a most unforgettable experience. While Hartford Stage opted for a classic rendering of the play, Davis at Long Wharf shows how unnatural marriage can be when set in Mother Nature’s primal environment. Everything about this production reflects Davis’s vision and it is as vivid as it is unforgettable.

During the play, Nora meets her grown daughter for the first time. She is not happy to learn that her daughter is excited about her upcoming marriage. When you hear Nora’s arguments against the need for marriage, she is most convincing. However, when her daughter argues for the need of marriage, it is the most passionate and profound argument to be made for getting married.

Maggie Bofill plays the revolutionary Nora with total conviction. She’s a marvel. Her husband Torvald is played by Jorge Cordova, who handles the role with dignity and compassion. The daughter, Emma, is brilliantly presented by Sasha Diamond and Mia Katigbak plays the maid, Anne Marie, with enough humor to continually allow the audience to exhale. Arnulfo Maldonado’s set is exquisite. Oana Botez’s suffragette costumes are picture perfect and Barbara Samuels’ lighting design and Jane Shaw’s sound design accent the production colorfully.

It plays through May 26. Box office: 203-787- 4282. This is a must-see production. It’s the fastest 90 minute show that is bound to last a lifetime.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com.

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