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He Says: A Doll’s House, Part 2 Compartmentalized Gender and Society Hilariously

He Says: A Doll’s House, Part 2 Compartmentalized Gender and Society Hilariously
A Dolls House Part 2, Laurie Metcalf
Laurie Metcalf. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.
The last time we saw Nora, she walked out the door, leaving behind her shocked husband and unknowing children. In Ibsen’s 1879 masterwork play, Nora’s action is seen as a brave and monumental decision for a woman to make, especially back in the day when it was written. It’s a powerful raising of the fist for feminism and a woman’s place in the world. Nora didn’t want to be Torvald’s pretty little doll. She didn’t want to be played with by a man who looks down from a high. In this clever sequel to that ground-breaking Ibsen classic, it all starts with some impatient knocking. When that door is finally opened, there is a strong and well dressed Laurie Metcalf (Tony nominated for the not-so-good Misery, and the amazing The Other Place) standing there.  Nora has come home again. She stands there erect and proud, but nervous and in need, and we know we are in for a wild ride courtesy of this modern young playwright.
Jayne Houdyshell, Laurie Metcalf

Jayne Houdyshell, Laurie Metcalf. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Lucas Hnath, an exciting new playwright (The Christians, Red Speedo) getting his Broadway debut in one star-studded way, writes A Doll’s House, Part 2 with a very modern slant on their language while following the story line plots with precision. This is a ‘what if’ story line, that examines the inequalities and social arrangements of the past with a nod to responsibility, love, attachment, and a diatribe on marriage. It’s a powerful four person production, directed by the big named Broadway director, Sam Gold (The Glass Menagerie, Fun Home) that doesn’t hold back on the punches.  You can see that a lot of star wattage has jumped on board this new play. Without a doubt, they all saw that this was a winner, and they score big on many different levels, while also being funny and thoroughly engaging.

Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper

Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Jane Houdyshell (The Humans, Follies) playing Aunt Marie, the woman who stepped in when Nora left to help Torvald with the home and the children, answers the knock at the door and ushers the former lady of the house into the bare living room. It’s a bit shocking to Nora and to us that the room is so empty and void of all frills (set design: Miriam Buether; lighting: Jennifer Tipton; sound: Leon Rothenberg).  Marie was expecting Nora, and finds herself in quite the conflicted situation. She has a lot to say to Nora, and the flood gates open wide for the both of them. It’s a master class in arguing.  They make an impressive talented duo, playing off each other in a well-written dance about motherhood and marriage.

Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad

Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Talk finally revolves around to Torvald, portrayed by Chris Cooper (Academy Award winner for Adaptation), who is slightly miscast as the ex-husband that hasn’t really managed to let go or move on.  It’s a complex part, playing in the arena of anger and frustration between a man and woman with tremendous history and heavy baggage.  Cooper doesn’t manage to rise to the same level as these other two women who command the stage at every moment with a hilarious ease and a powerful stance. He lacks a certain fortitude that makes his character less formidable, and no match for Metcalf.

Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper

Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper

Metcalf is as incredible as can be.  Her body language and stance is fascinating, being modern and old fashioned all at the same time, impeccably dressed by costume designer, David Zinn (Present Laughter, The Humans) giving her a command that radiates beyond the stitching.  She delivers every line with a strength and solidness of the woman she has finally become. She’s funny and sure footed, while also struggling with insecurity and shame, especially when the conversation circles around to her children.  Condola Rashad (MTC’s Ruined, Stick Fly) as the daughter, Emmy, one of three that Nora abandoned so many years ago, solidly goes head to head with Metcalf’s Nora, playing and engaging in sublimely unique and fascinating rhythms that constantly surprise.  It’s steadfast and true, while challenging the woman that is her mother, but not her caregiver.
Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad

Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Split up into compartmentalized blocks of time, A Doll’s House, Part 2 explores so much more than just gender inequalities and norms of that time, it resonates far and wide about love and marriage; attachment and parenting; responsibilities to family and to self. It’s a fun piece of playful writing, not too deep but it does carry a healthy dose of profoundness. Hnath is a welcome addition to this year’s theatrical season, and hopefully (and it’s already begun) the award nominations will flood in for this play, its director, and the cast.  Cooper sadly will most likely be left out, but for Metcalf and Houdyshell, they are both off to the races.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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