Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

A Doll's House, Part 2
Seattle Repertory Theatre
Review by David Edward Hughes


Pamela Reed and Laura Kenny
Photo by Alan Alabastro
Set 15 years after Nora Helmer shut the door and left her husband and their children, determined to become a then scandalous independent woman in Henrik Ibsen's classic A Doll's House, contemporary playwright Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2 is a witty and dramatically well-balanced latter day sequel. The very well received 2017 Tony Award nominee for Best Play won Laurie Metcalf a well-deserved Best Actress Tony. Seattle Repertory Theatre's very well cast production, directed by Artistic Director Braden Abraham, is nearly as captivating as the Broadway production. A more than passing acquaintance with Ibsen's original may help, but isn't really necessary.

The 15-year interval between Nora's departure and necessary but unexpected return takes us back to the Helmer home, where Anne Marie, the all-purpose housekeeper/nanny, nearly gets the wind knocked out of her actually seeing that the former mistress of the house, whom she also cared for as a child, has become a sophisticated and impeccably attired woman of the world. Anne Marie is no mush-mouthed pushover and uses curse words that would have had the show closed by censors and moralists in Ibsen's day.

Nora, now a successful author of women's books (written under a pseudonym), has come to face her ex Torvald, who never divorced her, to file belatedly, as she is afraid of blackmail, prison time, and financial ruin. Torvald initially doesn't even recognize Nora, and when she explains her plight, he refuses to help her and exits hastily. Their youngest daughter Emmy barely remembers her mother and is politely cool at first, then more emotional, and has none of the ambition Nora has had. Torvald and Nora share the last moments of the four-scene, 90-minute, intermissionless play, where all the family dynamics are sorted out. You'll need to see it to see if Nora leaves with what she came for.

Stage and screen veteran Pamela Reed is a very good fit for the role of Nora, even though her first scene with Laura Kenny as Anne Marie goes off track, as director Abraham has Nora breaking the fourth wall in a sort of Thornton Wilder's Dolly Levi style. The dynamic Reed and the invaluable Kenny have such great chemistry that I could let the quirky directorial choices slide. Ms. Kenny, the cherry on the sundae of many past Seattle productions, brings to mind such great character actresses as Thelma Ritter, Marjorie Main, and Shirley Booth, yet with her own special mix of sweet and sour, soft-spoken yet rambunctious life force.

Michael Winters is sublime as the self-torturing Torvald. The actor even finds some drolly underplayed humor in the role, which makes us realize he isn't just the stuffy, patronizing boor he was in the original play. Khan Doan gives a spirited, wistful air to the role of Emmy, whom we see clearly as someone Anne Marie and Torvald have raised, and raised well.

Abraham's direction is too static and airless for much of the play, despite the cast's top-drawer performances.

Scenic designer Carey Wong does an ace job with the icy, sterile and colorless interior of the sitting room (with only four chairs to sit in), which was a rather over-decorated mess as described by Nora in terms of what's now gone (i.e., everything). Deb Trout's costumes capture the just before the turn of the century styles beautifully, and LB Morse's lighting design is subtle and austere enough. Original music and sound design by Obadiah Eaves are notably good.

A Doll's House, Part 2, through April 28, 2019 at Seattle Repertory Theatre's Leo. K Theatre in Seattle Center, Seattle WA. For tickets or information contact the box office at 206-443-2222 or visit them online at www.seattlerep.com.


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