Sequel to Ibsen’s drama in Novato
Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen A doll’s house created in 1879 to great controversy. Her take on the limitations and restrictions placed on women in a patriarchal society was considered quite outrageous at the time. Many consider it the beginning of modern feminist literature, although Ibsen himself denied this. Suffice it to say, a play that ended with a wife and mother walking out with her family (door slamming) was not the norm.
Not content with letting the sound of a door slamming be the last “word”, playwright Lucas Hnath picks up Nora and Torvald’s story 15 years later with A dollhouse, part 2. The Novato Theater Company has a production until June 12.
It is now 1894, and the majestic silence of the Helmer house is interrupted by a knock at the door. Nanny turned governess Anne Marie (Shirley Nilsen Hall) opens the door and admits Nora (Alison Peltz) into the house she abandoned long ago. Nora has spent the past 15 years living an independent life as a successful writer. His latest book challenges the very concept of marriage, much to the dismay of powerful men whose wives abandoned them after reading it. Under threat of blackmail, Nora is shocked to find out she’s still married because Torvald (Mark Clark) never filed for divorce. She seeks the help of Anne Marie and possibly her own daughter Elly (Jannely Calmell) to convince Torvald to file. He has his own ideas.
You don’t need to know Ibsen’s original to get this show, and people dreading a stuffy 19th-century Norwegian drama will actually be surprised to find that Hnath has taken a very modern approach to the material. The dialogue is peppered with profanity and the humor is sharp and sharp, but the essence of Ibsen remains.
Energetically directed by Gillian Eichenberger, the show spins and packs a lot in its 85 minutes without intermission. Each character gets their moment, and each performer delivers their moment with verve. Peltz in particular does a good job of balancing Nora’s ambitions with her imperfections.
At the end of the show, we still don’t know what awaits Nora. Maybe in another 138 years…
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” runs through June 12 at the Novato Theater Company, 5420 Nave Drive, Ste. C, Novato. Fri & Sat, 7:30 p.m.; Sun, 2 p.m. Performance performed in ASL Sunday, May 29. $12 to $27. 415.883.4498. Proof of vaccination and wearing a mask is required to attend. novatotheatrecompany.org.