Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

A Doll's House, Part 2
Review by Fred Sokol | Season Schedule

Also see Fred's reviews of The Engagement Party and Miller, Mississippi

Kira Player and Tasha Lawrence
Photo by Larry Nagler
A Doll's House, Part 2, on the boards at TheaterWorks in Hartford through February 24th, challenges the observer through its script by Lucas Hnath which addresses character motivations beyond and behind dialogue. The play, which has often been produced across the country since its Broadway run ended in September 2017, benefits from four convincing performances which are consistent throughout the excellent 90-minute TheaterWorks presentation.

It is 1894 in a small Norwegian town and Nora Helmer (Tasha Lawrence), who dramatically slammed the door on everyone in her family 15 years earlier, is back. She abandoned not only her then insensitive husband Torvald (Sam Gregory) but her children and those who tended to everyone's needs. That includes, within the context of the current play, housekeeper Anne Marie (Amelia White) and daughter Emmy (Kira Player). All four are significant; this is not only a husband/wife tussle.

By now, Nora has independently shaped her quite extensive personal and professional lives. Far from shy, she has had relationships with several men and is a writer. Her recent book, we discover, is based upon her marriage to Torvald. She comes home, though, because she realizes that her husband never did literally divorce her, and this was a time when she could not actualize that act. For various reasons, Nora wants it done.

Upon her entrance, Anne Marie is, by turns, surprised, unsettled, and, ultimately, judgmental. The two women trade viewpoints and Anne Marie goes toe-to-toe with the former lady of the household. The opening scene is of multiple-dimension. It is informational and, at times, comedic. Next, Torvald (who evidently rarely comes home from work) stops by, barely recognizing Nora, but engages her in conversation.

Emmy (Player) is bold with her mother, advising Nora that they've done well without her; it's kind of a thank you very much declaration. If anybody nurtured Emmy, it was Anne Marie. The young woman knows how to face off against men or women and she is a very strong force.

So, we have a most feminist Nora grappling with legal issues attempting to coax Torvald, a man stunned for years through his wife's dramatic departure. Anne Marie, with her "Nora, Nora, Nora" words and many others, is perceptive and more than feisty. Emmy is filled with an inner rage, a voice which questions both her mother's departure when Emmy was very young and Nora's current return.

The set, designed by the talented Alexander Dodge, is perplexing. Illuminated rectangular illuminated frames (perhaps representing windows leading elsewhere) are placed on either side of the stage. The handsome wooden door (symbolic and actual) is positioned dead-center at the rear.

A Doll's House, Part 2 begs for exquisite timing and that is furnished by gifted director Jean Thompson and a splendid cast. Tasha Lawrence, as Nora, is both haughty and potent. She has made her way back and might come to understand, toward the end of the play, that her husky edge could be detrimental. Pseudonym and all, she is humbled. After all, she could be subject to blackmail if she does not get the divorce. Sam Gregory's Torvald is frazzled during some moments but also a sympathetic soul. Playwright Hnath paints him not as bestial but rather a man who has become, if anything, contemplative. He is still a banker and he never really informed people in town that Nora abandoned all. Anne Marie is smart and vociferous while Emmy, in advance of her own marriage, does not really recall her own mother.

The the midpoint of this thought-provoking production, while watching and listening, there is opportunity to consider what is now occurring and just why. Who has grown? What about personal ambition? Hnath's text and Thompson's direction allow for further reflection.

A Doll's House, Part 2, through February 24, 2019, TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford CT. For tickets, call 860-527-7838 or visit