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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
A Doll's House, Part 2
By Macey Levin

There's the door. I know you know how to use it!— Anne Marie
Laila Robins and Christopher Innvar (photo credit: Daniel Rader)
It may be sacrilege to say, but if Nora didn't slam that door at the end of the 1879 production of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, the play would have faded into oblivion. Depending on the translation, it is verbose, florid and repetitious. But it is Nora's exit that makes it memorable.

In April of 2017 Lucas Hnath brought Nora back to the house after fifteen years in a sort of sequel entitled A Doll's House, Part 2. It was hailed with virtually universal raves. It is now at Barrington Stage Company's Mainstage in Pittsfield, MA receiving a somewhat preachy production which lacks the rueful humor of middle-aged regrets.

The premise is intriguing. After leaving her husband Torvald and her children, Nora has built a life for herself as an independent, free-thinking woman. She has a successful career as a writer under a pseudonym. Her novels expound her new-found philosophy that marriage is destructive to women and they should rid themselves of its bonds. She has signed legal contracts and owns her own home, all things a woman was not supposed to do without a husband's permission. She has also had other relationships. However, she has discovered that she is still married to Torvald since he did not file for divorce as he promised all those years ago. She has returned to get the divorce or her "illegal" activities will be publicized and she will lose everything and face the possibility of prison.

The play's thematic core revolves around the definition of marriage, the inequitable treatment of women, and societal regulations... all under discussion in today's media. Hnath's obvious intention is to suggest that things haven't changed all that much in 139 years.

Nora (Laila Robins) knocks on that infamous door several times until Anne Marie (Mary Stout,) the children's former nanny, answers and welcomes her. Through the next several days Nora meets with her still-husband (Christopher Innvar) and d her daughter Emmy (Ashley Bufkin) who is soon to marry. She attempts to inveigle them into helping her achieve freedom.

Rather than conversations, this production under the direction of Joe Calarco, becomes a series of responsive diatribes as Nora defends her need to leave, her current life style and philosophy. The others speak of the pain she induced, familial relationships and responsibilities.

Calarco has directed Ms. Robins to be so calculating, manipulative and self-involved that it's difficult to engender any empathy for her. However, this is the audience's concerned response to Anne Marie and Emmy's emotional angst. After his firm refusal to assist Nora, even Torvald has a change of heart and becomes more amenable to her plight. The pace of the production sometimes plods along picking up steam toward the end when Nora and Torvald have an argument that descends into farcical behavior.

Brian Prather emphasizes that door that dominates the set, the empty entry hall except for two chairs that are placed and placed again and placed again to suggest the relationship of the various characters throughout the ninety minutes of the play. Jen Caprio's costumes are distinctive in that they suggest age and class of the protagonists. The lighting and sound by Lindsay Jones and Chris Lee respectively serve to enhance the emotional values of the production.

To read CurtainUp's review of the more successful Broadway production go here.

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A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath
Directed by Joe Calarco
Cast: Mary Stout (Anne Marie) Laila Robins (Nora) Christopher Innvar (Torvald) Ashley Bufkin (Emmy)
Scene design: Brian Prather
Costume design: Jen Caprio
Lighting design: Chris Lee
Sound design: Lindsay Jones
Wig Design: J. Jared Janas
Stage Manager: Leslie Sears
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Barrngton Stage Company, Boyd-Quinson Mainstage, Pittsfield, MA
From 7/12/18; closing 7/28/18
Reviewed by Macey Levin at July 15, 2018 performance

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