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He Said, She Said: ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’

May 11th, 2017 Comments off
Laurie Metcalf in 'A Doll's House, Part 2.' (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe via The Broadway Blog.)

Laurie Metcalf in ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2.’ (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe via The Broadway Blog.)

It begins with a knock. And a chuckle. The knock is onstage. The chuckle, from audience members familiar with Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, one of the most significant plays of the 19th century. The play questioned marriage norms and a woman’s role in society, and at the end, its female protagonist, Nora, leaves her husband and famously walks out the door — leaving her husband, her children, and life as she knows it, behind. That knock is a sure sign that something is amiss.

A Doll’s House, Part 2 picks up 15 years later and Nora has come home. Well, not home, exactly, for she’s made quite a life for herself as a writer working under a pseudonym. If home is where the heart is, then it’s not here, for Nora seems perfectly happy—sometimes giddy, in fact — with the new life she’s created for herself.

Except there’s one major problem. Nora’s real name has been found out, and there’s someone out to ruin her, for her writings have inspired other women to leave their husbands and this particular fellow — a judge — isn’t too keen on that. It gets better. Or worse, as the case may be. Nora’s husband, Torvald, never filed divorce papers, so all of Nora’s endeavors have technically been illegal. So the gauntlet has been thrown down. Either she gets Torvald to agree to a divorce or she likely faces incarceration. And then there’s the small issue of her children she’s left behind.

The cast of 'A Doll's House, Part 2.' (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2.’ (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe via The Broadway Blog.)

Nimbly written by Lucas Hnath and exquisitely directed by Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2 is a tour de force for its ensemble of actors, each of which has earned a Tony nomination for his or her performance. At its core is Laurie Metcalf as Nora, who relishes Hnath’s script for every juicy word and smartly juxtaposes period conventions and modernisms.

Metcalf’s counterpoints include the hilarious Jane Houdyshell as Anne Marie, the family nanny who sacrificed her own life to pick up the pieces after Nora’s departure and essentially raised her children. Her foul-mouthed character is terrific ammunition for what’s in store.

Eventually, Torvald (Chris Cooper) comes home, and the former couple has at it in a series of verbal boxing matches that sling blame, hurts, and truths. If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, you might cringe at the familiarity of arguments. Cooper is, perhaps, more subtle than his onstage counterparts. He’s made a career in film and television, and while you can see the cogs turning, it’s not quite as dynamic a performance as his female co-stars.

This includes Condola Rashad as Emmy, Nora and Torvald’s daughter. Simultaneously sweet-natured yet with a sharp tongue that she inherited from her mother despite her lack of presence, Emmy hatches yet another plan to possibly preserve everyone’s futures, but Nora is reluctant to latch on, saying one of many resonating passages throughout the play:

…20, 30 years from now
the world isn’t going to be the kind of place I say it’s going to be unless
I’m the one to make it that way –

Gold directs A Doll’s House, Part 2 with the precision of a surgeon, gifting the ensemble with a physical and emotional roadmap that is nothing short of electric. The production design, including scenic design by Miriam Buether, costume design by David Zinn, and lighting design by Jennifer Tipton, supports this vision.

Torvald eventually returns, having taken action of his own, but once again, Nora stands on her own two feet, deciding to bear the consequences, finally saying:

The world didn’t change as much as I thought it would,
but I know that someday everything will be different, and everyone will be free — freer than they are now.
… I just hope I live to see it

Don’t we all.

A Doll’s House, Part 2
Golden Theatre
252 West 45th Street, NYC
Through July 23

A special midnight performance of A Doll’s House, Part 2 is scheduled for Thursday, May 18, with proceeds benefitting The Actors Fund.

 

 

Review Round-Up: “Romeo and Juliet” Returns to Broadway

September 25th, 2013 Comments off
Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in "Romeo and Juliet." (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet.” (photo: Carol Rosegg)

Romeo and Juliet is back on Broadway (for the first time in 36 years) and co-starring Hollywood heavyweight Orlando Bloom. Directed by Tony Award nominee David Leveaux, this production has a modern setting in which the Montague family is white and the Capulet family is black. Shakespeare’s dramatization of the original poem sets the two young lovers in a context of prejudice, authoritarian parents, and a never-ending cycle of ‘revenge.’ Against this background, the strength of their love changes the world.

The last time Romeo and Juliet was produced on Broadway was the 1977 Circle in the Square production featuring Paul Ryan Rudd and Pamela Payton-Wright. Other notable New York productions include: the Public Theater’s 2012 gala staged-reading at the Delacorte Theater starring Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep; the Public Theater’s 2007 Shakespeare in the Park production starring Oscar Isaac and Lauren Ambrose; as well as the 1940 Broadway production starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.

What do the critics think of this reimagined telling of family feuding and forlorn love? Here’s what they have to say:

“Mr. Bloom, in a first-rate Broadway debut, and the gifted Ms. Rashad exude a too-fine-for-this-world purity that makes their characters’ love feel sacred. It seems right that they should speak in some of Shakespeare’s most gossamer-spun poetry, which they do with beguiling effortlessness.

The final, blood-soaked scene in the Capulet family tomb, which has been considerably truncated here, feels almost like a hastily scribbled postscript. The show’s pinnacle of loss has been scaled a couple of scenes earlier, when Romeo, mistakenly believing that Juliet is dead, buys poison.

The world is not thy friend,” he tells the seedy apothecary (Spencer Plachy), but he’s talking to himself. At that moment, Mr. Bloom’s eyes burn black with fathomless despair, and we lament the memory of how those eyes once radiated visions of endlessly beautiful love.” The New York Times

“The attention-getting success of Luhrmann’s adaptation, down to its graffiti-like branding—he titled his movie William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet—clearly had a significant effect on the director David Leveaux’s current revival (at the Richard Rodgers). Leveaux is a theatre artist of great style, too, but his is a vision that suffers when he doesn’t have everything—cast, lighting, and so on—perfectly in balance. While Leveaux has apparently worked hard to bring his Verona, with its warring Capulets and Montagues, to life, his team betrays the strain of his desperate-to-be-hip imagination.” The New Yorker

“The kids are all right. That’s the takeaway from Romeo and Juliet, with movie heartthrob Orlando Bloom and ingenue stunner Condola Rashad as Shakespeare’s star-cross’d lovers. The interracial casting of the feuding Montague and Capulet clans sounds bold, but has surprisingly little dramatic impact. The tragedy also survives its gimmicky update to modern-ish times. Bottom line: This enduring love story stands or falls on the appeal of its lovers, and the young stars bring a sweet passion — if no ear whatsoever for romantic poetry — to their immortal roles.” Variety

“Shakespeare is all about the language, but in this show it’s a weak link. The contemporary version depicts the Capulets as black and their sworn enemies, the Montagues, as white. But the racial tensions aren’t really explored in any significant way. Instead Leveaux pours on imagery and effects: a motorcycle, a tolling bell, a floating balcony and funeral bed, fire and flash pots, a Forrest Gump-like feather, live drumming, dramatic underscoring by a cellist and an Alvin Ailey-esque dance break during the masked ball. And that balloon. Competing with all that distraction are the actors — and many of them lose.” New York Daily News

Romeo and Juliet
Richard Rogers Theatre
226 West 46th Street
Through January 12, 2014