It takes all kinds in this doll house
I love a good thought-provoking play that leaves many questions floating around in my head.
The interpretation of Hnath's screenplay by the director, University of Florida School of Theatre and Dance Professor, Charlie Mitchell, left me sitting on the proverbial fence. I was sympathizing with the protagonist Nora (Tess Hogan), whose needs and desires focused on being her own person/woman. Then again having been in several relationship break-ups, I easily empathized with the frustration and angst of Torvald (V Craig Heidenreich) in trying to understand what was happening:
After 15 years, why in the world did Nora return to upset his life again?
The original story, you may recall, ended with Nora Helmer realizing, through a series of unfortunate events, that her marriage to her husband, Torvald, was an existential fraud. She walked out on him and their three young children and slammed the door behind her. A Doll's House, Part flashes forward 15 years, and my, how things have — and haven't — changed.
In the opening of Part 2, Nora is knocking on the homestead's door for re-admittance Nora is looking prosperous, pleased with herself, albeit anxious.
The now liberated woman has become a successful "women's novelist" discovering contentment in living alone. Unfortunately she finds herself with grave legal problems, as Torvald never officially divorced her. She has returned to see him, reluctantly, in hopes of rectifying that omission.
Enter Emmy (MaRah Williams), the daughter Nora abandoned before Emmy could bond with her mother. Nora seeks Emmy's assistance in convincing her father to help in making this divorce process easy. In an exquisite juxtaposition, mother and daughter discuss their lives, each character mirroring the other in behaviors, realities, and most importantly perceptions about life.
What transpires for 90 minutes – with no intermission – is a debate on appropriate and inappropriate behavior dressed in 'What about me' discourse. This dialogue leaves the audience to arrive at who are the winners and losers in this existential mind bender.
Kudos to Set Designer, Stephanie Parks, and her perfect 'period piece'-decorated living room wall with the ominous door center stage. Thinking back, what a perfect opening was that loud knock-knock-knock from someone standing behind 'Exhibit A' in this trial of diametrically opposed familial ideas.
Now, about his Doll House cast of actors/characters:
MaRah Williams is obviously a woman of attitude. That was my thought when I saw her in the Hipp's production of THE WOLVES. As Emmy, Williams's weary eye and unsettled thoughts of why this 'mother' had returned to her world are projected toward Nora. Keeping her distance with indifference toward her mother built a keen tension on the stage almost making me uncomfortable. Nice Job Ms. Williams.
V Craig Heldenreich's Torvald won my heart. I understood where this character was coming from. I felt his angst, frustration, lack of understanding as to why all of this was happening. Kudos Mr. Heldenreich.
Sara Morsy's depiction of Anne Marie was a perfect way to start this performance. Ms. Morsy's confusion and disbelief of the return of Nora after 15 years set the stage for a then-and-now engagement of the minds while positioning Nora as the driver of this story.
I'm thinking Tess Hogan liked the Nora character. I couldn't tell if she was acting or personally identifying with this living, 19th century, on-the-edge liberated character that was defying all social norms. Ms. Hogan easily projected the pain and anxiety Nora was going through and many of the anxieties she was reliving but able to stow away in her world of oneness. Exquisite performance Ms. Hogan.
When Torvald fell down on the floor toward the end I thought he died from frustration. That would have been a fitting end to this philosophical argument.
Not so theatre go-er.
There are so many issues, view points, frustrations, to discuss about the death of Torvald and his resigning to take the blame would have made this play too easy to absorb.
The GLOB Master's suggestion is find a partner and watch this thought-provoking show on personal engagement. Then you both can sort out your feelings on the me-myself-and-I paradigm.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to the Hipp's Rachel Jones for the DOLL HOUSE images. The Hippodrome's production of A Doll's House Part 2 continues through February 3 with shows on various days, times. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more DOLL HOUSE information.