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Jayne Houdyshell, Laurie Metcalf

Jayne Houdyshell, Laurie Metcalf. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Marriage as an institution will end in 20 or 30 years! Nora

Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2, takes place 15 years after Nora (Laurie Metcalf), abandoned and left behind her husband Torvald (Chris Cooper) and her three young children. She has returned for one reason only, to get the one thing that has the potential to destroy her new found freedom and she will do what ever it takes to achieve her goal. Nora is now a highly successful and a popular feminist novelist, encouraging women to leave their husbands and families. In stating this she has convinced a judges wife to leave him and has brought down his wrath. The judge discovered that Torvald never officially divorced Nora and is threatening to bring her down.

The play opens as Nora renters the same door she walked out of. The room is now empty with the exception of four contemporary chairs, a small table and a potted plant. Nora is dressed in the style of the 19th century, but her speech is anything but, she is crude, vulgar and self-confident, so we are left not exactly knowing what era we are in. Nora tries to manipulate, not thank Ann Marie (Jayne Houdyshell), the nanny who not only raised her, but left her own child to help raise Nora’s three children. Where words of gratefulness are needed, all Nora can state is that marriage is cruel and destroys women’s lives.

A Dolls House Part 2, Laurie Metcalf

Torvald coming home early, still in love with his wife and informs her to divorce her would destroy his job, position in society and leave him bankrupt. He therefore refuses.

Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad

Laurie Metcalf, Condola Rashad. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Next to enter is Nora’s youngest child, Emmy (Condola Rashad), who is engaged and sees committing to life with another person as something good. She too tells her mother, that what she is asking is selfish. Nora not once asks Emmy how she is or any other questions that pertain to her life. Again all Nora is concern about is Nora.

Laurie Metcalf, Chris Cooper

Laurie Metcalf, Jayne Houdyshell, Condola Rashad, Chris Cooper. Photo by Brigitte Lacombe.

Torvald enters once again with a divorce in hand. He has read her novel and doesn’t like the way he was portrayed. He has decided to give up everything for her and what does she do……she tears it up. Instead of being angry he states, “The same way I made assumptions about you, you made assumptions about me.” Torvald wants to work through their problems, but Nora too self-absorbed walks right back out the door.

Laurie Metcalf is over the top, playing this narcissistic women to the hilt. It is clear she is enjoying playing this role, but I would have liked to see some subtlety and maybe a couple of layers. Chris Cooper gives us the longing of a man who is clueless as to why his love is never enough. Our heart breaks for him. Jayne Houdyshell and Condola Rashad give the best performances I have seen either one of them give. I do have to admit that I kept wondering if Nora had an affair and why wasn’t that brought up.

Sam Gold keeps pushing the barriers with blank stages and it doesn’t always work. I kept wanting to know why was the house so bare, he did however in this case bring out terrific performances.

Hnath is a talented writer and his script is biting, sarcastic and like a whip. He brings out the worst in humanity and still allows us to see some good. Like Diana in Next To Normal, Virginia Wolfe and Laura Brown in The Hours, Nora is not a likable person. She lives in the me mentality and cares nothing for the destruction she leaves behind. Hnath keeps having her repeat Marriage as an institution will end in 20 or 30 years!, but if that is the case, then why does everyone want to get married? It’s been 123 years and the marriage business is a 10 billion dollar business, so I really don’t understand the point of this play. If the women in the world were all like Nora, all I can say is count me out of that self obsessed world.

 

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: A Dolls House: Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain

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I went with T2C’s editor to A Dolls House, which inspired this caricature. You can read Suzanna’s review of the show here.

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T2C Sends Our Prayers to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lea Michele

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Saturday, March 25, 2023

 A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber

 I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital. His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft. 

 Thank you for all your thoughts during this difficult time.

The 75-year-old Oscar-winning composer son Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps and was a successful composer in his own right, having written Fat Friends The Musical. He was married to musician Polly Wiltshire, who appeared on the soundtrack of his father’s 2019 movie Cats.

During his career, Nicholas also scored music for an adaption of The Little Prince as well as composing numerous TV and film scores, including for the BBC1 drama Loves, Lies, and Records.

Nicholas previously spoke about making his own way in the theatre world away from his famous family name in a 2011 unearthed interview.

He said he wanted to be ‘judged on his own merits’ so dropped his surname when working to see what the reaction would be.

Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.

Also on Saturday Lea Michele updated her fans on the status of her two-year-old’s health via her Instagram  after he was hospitalized earlier this week.  Her son Ever was in the hospital, but is now out due to a ‘scary health issue. She posted a picture backstage in her dressing room ahead of her Broadway performance in Funny Girl. Lea had been out to focus on her family.

“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for just so much love and support this week. I really really appreciated it”.

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Parade: A Musical That Asks Us Do We Have The Eyes And Ears To See.

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Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.

Ben Platt Photo By Joan Marcus

The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree. 

Erin Rose Doyle, Photo by Joan Marcus

The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.

Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.

Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox Photo By Joan Marcus

The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony  (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.

Alex Joseph Grayson Photo by Joan Marcus

Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”

Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.

Paul Alexander Nolan, Howard McMillan Photo By Joan Marcus

In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.

Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.


Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.

Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.

Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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