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.
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.
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.
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.