- Boston Theatre Critic
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House premiered in Denmark in 1879. Over one hundred and thirty years later, A Doll's House Part 2 by writer Lucas Hnath, brings us back to Norway and the Helmer house where Nora slammed the door and left her family and life behind her. Premiering on Broadway in 2017, this play begins fifteen years Nora left her family. Directed by Joe Calarco, this emotional rollercoaster of a play is performed by four talented actors who are so deeply invested in their characters it is easy for the audience to get wrapped up in the story.
Laila Robins plays Nora, a strong willed woman of the world who chose to change the course of her life and become her own independent person in control of her destiny. Since leaving her husband Torvald, Nora has become financially independent as a successful writer and is enjoying living her happy life alone. Robins remarkably taps into each distinct facet that makes Nora who she is: her strength, her independent thinking, her emotional complexity and the pain she felt having to leave and live separate from her children. As well as her belief that women should have more of a role and choice in how they live their lives and not be constantly controlled by their husbands. Robins' vocal variations were intuitively well executed. There were times when she was visibly distraught or intensely angry and yet her vocal tone stayed low and she spoke from her gut rather than allowing her voice to get high pitched and screechy. In doing this, her portrayal of Nora resonated as meticulous and powerful instead of demanding and shrill.
Christopher Innvar plays Torvald, who we are guided into disliking in Ibsen's play, but in Hnath's sequel we gain further understanding of Torvald's character and the decisions he makes. Innvar's dynamic portrayal made Torvald a slightly more sympathetic character. Mary Stout plays Anne Marie, the nanny/ house keeper/confidant of the Helmer family. Stout delivered a nice mix of humor and heart in her portrayal. Ashley Bufkin portrays Emmy, the grown daughter of Nora and Torvald who meets her mother for the first time when Nora comes home to obtain a divorce. While it seems that, at the start of their conversation, Emmy is sweet and naïve, it is not long before we see the clever side of her when she tries to convince Nora of the best way to solve the problems both her and Torvald's past sins have caused, all the while ensuring a secure future for herself. Bufkin delivered an innocent, yet smart and at times humorous performance of Emmy.
While the technical elements were kept simple, the sound design stood out in its ability to amplify the core theme of this play: "You Don't Own Me". Lindsay Jones (Original Music and Sound Designer) took the basis of this contemporary R&B song and crafted it into a musical anthem that played instrumentally in between scenes and with the vocals during the curtain call. It perfectly enveloped this play and its characters tying it all together for the audience and ending with a powerful message of strength and independence. ©
A Doll's House Part 2 runs about 90 minutes with no intermission and plays on the Boyd-Quinson Mainstage until July 28th. For tickets and more information on this and other productions call the box office at 413-236-8888 or visit www.barringtonstageco.org
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