Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
It is 15 years after the end of Ibsen's story, and Nora returns to secure a divorce that Torvald never executed. In a series of one on one confrontations, we learn Nora's story during those 15 years. Hnath writes with a present-day sensibility while his characters exist 150 years ago. Three of the characters go off on tirades using the "f" bomb, totally out of period and unnecessary.
Since the character of Nora is written with the sympathy loaded against her, the actress playing her needs to exude great warmth to hopefully win the audience partially over to her side. Kate Hampton, whom I have admired in many past roles is not that actress. She is strong, certainly powerful enough to have survived in a world hostile to women, but she doesn't win me over. Real-life husband David Breitbarth plays Torvald, who, In Hnath's world, made all the efforts to reach compromises and more importantly to take care of his wife and family. Breitbarth is at his best playing strong, unbending types as he does in The Crucible currently playing in repertory with this play. He is effective, but I don't believe this role plays to his greatest strengths as an actor. Beloved Peggy Roeder plays maid Anne Marie to perfection. Olivia Osol plays daughter Emmy, but the confrontation with her estranged mother is the weakest of the play.
Peter Amster, usually director of wonderful comic productions (The Matchmaker, The Parfumerie) seems like a not ideal choice to direct this play, which is more drama than comedy. Perhaps some of the imperfect casting might have caught a different director's eye.
All of the technical elements, costumes and scenic design by Robert Perdziola, lighting by Christopher Ostrom and especially hair/wig and make-up design by Michelle Hart are at the usual exalted level for an Asolo show.
A number of years ago, I made my only live acquaintance with Ibsen's classic, starring Katherine Michelle Tanner in an excellent performance as Nora. A few years ago Katherine Michelle and Kate Hampton squared off in a confrontational play at Florida Studio Theatre called Gidion's Knot where both were excellent. I think I might be willing to revisit this play with Katherine Michelle, who plays warmer than Ms. Hampton.
A Doll's House, Part 2, through March 31, 2019, at the Mertz Theater in the FSU Center, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota FL. For tickets and information, call the box office at 941-351-8000 or visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast: Anne Marie: Peggy Roeder*