Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Doll's House, Part 2

It has been 3 years since I posted one of these... so many plays I have read in that time, that I know I wish I had a zippy little paragraph about to reference. Ah well - here we go again!

Play #137 

A Doll's House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath

I haven't had much time to read plays these days - everything is moving at some absurd, breakneck pace, and my ability to focus on much beyond the task in front of me has definitely been hindered. That said, a week or two ago, when I was discussing A Doll's House with an independent study student I'm working with this term, we started talking about Lucas Hnath's sequel, and it suddenly bothered me that I hadn't read it. So, in a fit of focus that I really must find a way to find more regularly, I sat down and read it in an afternoon. And I am really glad I did!

The play takes place 15 years after the end of Ibsen's story, with Nora coming home to ask her husband to make their divorce official - something he failed to do in her absence, and that is now potentially creating significant legal difficulties for her. In her time away from her family, Nora has created a successful life for herself as a revolutionary feminist writer, and a man whose wife was inspired by Nora's writing to leave him has threatened to undo everything she has achieved. On her return, she has to reckon with Torvald, of course, but she also comes to terms with how her departure and return affected her nursemaid Anne-Marie, and her daughter Emmy - who is now grown and engaged. I found the humanization of Torvald welcome and still complex enough not to turn it into a story about a man who was wronged. Nora saw herself in her daughter and was willing to make some real sacrifices to keep Emmy from treading a path that Nora knew all too well. It felt stylistically in tune with Ibsen's original, while also managing to feel contemporary. It complicates Nora's actions without taking the wind out of her strength. I found it an interesting intellectual exercise with the potential - in the hands of the right actors and director - for genuine emotional insight. And I'll just say it: I want to play Nora, like, right this instant. 

Also - there are some pretty good monologues in here, so a play of many applications!

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