Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
From the moment Nora (Grace Gonglewski) walks back into her old home, it is clear that she is not the same skittish, scatterbrained woman who slammed the door shut so many years ago. Self-possessed and confident, this new Nora has arranged for a clandestine meeting with family nanny Anne Marie (Joilet Harris). The plan is to enlist Anne Marie's help, get what she needs from Torvald (Steven Rishard), and quickly slip back out of their lives forever. Of course, the people Nora left behind have issues and ideas of their own. Soon her simple plan becomes as complex and messy as any human relationship. Torvald sums things up nicely when he says, "It's just so hard ... Being with people."
A little bit older and a lot more dignified, but still grappling with some of the problems that lead to her departure, this Nora is satisfyingly evolved. The role calls for a fair amount of philosophizing, but Gonglewski is riveting. Harris is back as Anne Marie (Terrence J. Nolen directed A Doll's House at the Arden last season), butthanks to Hnaththis time she is free to speak her mind. It is delightfully shocking when her long suppressed indignation rises to the surface, but Harris's impassioned performance leaves no doubt that anger is well justified. Rishard could use a bit more passion, but his dialogue with Gonglewski is captivating. Grace Tarves bristles with intractable self-assurance as Nora's adult daughter.
Jorge Cousineau's set is a starker version of the one he designed for last season's production, complete with stains on the wall where the pictures used to hang. The overwhelming whiteness of the scene stands in sharp contrast with the sumptuous crimson dress Olivera Gajic has created for Nora. That dress is an empowering costume for Gonglewski and a symbol of how far Nora has come.
That sense of progress might be difficult to appreciate if you have never seen Ibsen's A Doll's House. At the very least I would recommend reading the original script before venturing into the theater. Director Tracy Brigden's taut production is worth the effort.
A Doll's House, Part 2, through December 9, 2018, at the Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets call 215-922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.