American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
By Gwendolyn Rice, Isthmus, October 31
Earlier this summer, Read the full article here! audiences were stunned when Henrik Ibsen’s heroine, Nora Helmer (Kelsey Brennan) walked out of her house, leaving her husband, Torvald (Nate Burger), and their three children behind. Now audiences have the opportunity to see what happened next, in the company’s astounding production of A Doll’s House, Part 2, by Lucas Hnath.
It turns out that in addition to shocking 19th century audiences, creating a completely new kind of female character and pioneering theatrical realism, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House also has one of the best cliffhangers in dramatic literature. Answering some of the story’s lingering questions, Hnath has created an intriguing, emotionally complex and compassionate conclusion. It stays true to the characters Ibsen created, while inserting modern language and contemporary discussions about love, marriage, morality and how difficult it is to be fully honest with another human being.
When Nora (a radiant Colleen Madden) comes back to her former home, 15 years after striking out to declare her independence, things have definitely changed. Working with some of the same elements he created for the play’s predecessor, Andrew Boyce has designed a sparse set for A Doll’s House, Part 2. Most of the furniture is gone. The wallpaper looks faded, and the hardwood floor has been covered with tan carpeting.
Fashions, created by Raquel Adorno, have changed too. Nora’s flouncy, rose colored bustle dress has been updated to a prim, rust-colored suit dress with a chic, turn-of-the century silhouette. A luxurious smoking jacket has been replaced with a sensible blue suit for Torvald (the sober Jim DeVita).
Tiny modern touches remind the audience that this play is not a museum piece; the maid Anne Marie (a delightfully pragmatic Sarah Day) wears red sneakers under her uniform and wields an electric Hoover vacuum. Nora sports an uber-stylish haircut. This matches Hnath’s language, which is current and direct. These elements all coalesce around a decidedly present-day meditation on the historic question: How can two people love each other completely, and also allow one another to be free?
When Nora opens the door bathed in warm light, looking strong, poised and confident, Torvald greets her with stunned silence; he is bitter and emotionally frozen. Over the course of the play the former couple wrestles with the past, blames and accuses each other in turn, and tries to inch toward an understanding of where things went wrong. Pauses are filled to the breaking point. Accusations are both frightening and refreshingly honest. Eruptions of emotion feel like genuine release.