A Doll's House shocked audiences around the world in 1879 with it's depiction of a wife fighting back against societal and gender norms, and an ending that had the heroine Nora Helmer walk out the door of her home, leaving behind her husband and children. 138 years later Lucas Hnath's sequel revisited the story 15 years later, when Nora returns home, looking for help. The play got rave reviews on Broadway, so when I heard the Jungle Theater was including the show in their 2020 season I couldn't have been more excited. The Jungle has proven itself masterful at storytelling in the past, and I was excited to both the play but also what the Jungle would do with it.
After seeing the show on Friday night it is obvious why the show was such a success. At only 95 minutes (and no intermission) it is so full of things to enjoy. The show is at its heart a character piece, and each character is fully fleshed out, no one is the villain, everyone is just living their own life with their own motivations and understanding of the world, all just trying to do the right thing. For me this was so refreshing because it feels more honest to how the world actually is. And although the show is filled with serious subjects, it is also filled with humor
At the center is Nora, who has done quite well for herself after leaving her family. She has become a successful author of stories for women. Stories that not all their husbands are fans of, as they have encouraged some women to leave their marriages like she has. She is portrayed in the Jungle's production by Christina Baldwin who gives Nora both fire and heart. She is filled with passion about her beliefs and desire for the world to change and yet is still weighed down by the knowledge of the effect her departure must have had on her children.
Torvald is a meeker, more human man than the version that exists of him in the Ibsen play. His arc through the play is fascinating to watch and the show won't be what it is without it. Stephen Epp brings the frustration and humility to Torvald that makes him a sympathetic character.
Anne Marie played by Angela Timberman brings depth and humor to the play. Anne Marie is the housekeeper and raised both Nora and her children. She pushes against the idea of who has the privilege to leave her husband and children. Megan Burns rounds out the cast as Emmy, Nora's daughter, who has no memory of her mother. She brings some Alexis Rose energy (for any Schitt's Creek fans) in the best way possible and mirrors her mother's own resourcefulness. The family shown on stage has been apart for 15 years but somehow, disfunction or not, are still a family.
The direction by Joanie Schultz makes the story feel modern and cinematic, while still feeling that it takes place at the end of the 19th century. The scenic design by Chelsea M Warren is an empty room, framed by arches, and scattered with chairs at its perimeter. Its openness allows for the dialogue to be the most attention seeking part of the show. It also serves as a backdrop of the lighting by Marcus Dilliard and Sound Design by Sean Healey. The show opens with credits and a Star Wars like scroll of a plot summary of Ibsen's A Doll's House. I recommend still reading the plot summary in the program before seeing the show. I was seated at the end of the row and the set's arches and viewing angle made it impossible for me to make out the text of the plot summary. Within the show, scenes are split up with dramatic lighting and sound changes and projections of characters names. It is an effective way to indicate a new character or relationship dynamic was going to enter the show.
A Doll's House Part 2 is a perfect show for anyone who is married or is single. Who is an advocate of the nuclear family or is someone who rallies against it. The story filled with well rounded characters and points of view will give everyone something to cling to and is bound to lead to interesting conversations after the show. It is playing at the Jungle Theater until February 23rd. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photos by Lauren B Photography