After Ibsen: "A Doll's House, Part 2" Comes to Asolo Rep

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JAN 11, 2019

In the final scene of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 landmark drama, A Doll’s House, Nora turns her back on her tyrannical husband, Torvald, and their small child, slamming the door with a bang heard ‘round the world stage. More than 100 years later, playwright Lucas Hnath continues the story of the broken Helmer family with A Doll’s House, Part 2, a dramedy in one act that begins with Nora returning after 15 years to knock on that very same door. Coming to Asolo Repertory Theatre on January 18, Peter Amster directs this Tony Award-nominated theatrical rarity, on track to be the most produced play in the US for the 2018–19 season.

An uncommon animal in the theater world, this particular sequel becomes all the more audacious for what it follows—both a true classic and an already failed attempt at a sequel in the 1983 Broadway bomb, A Doll’s Life. It all started with the playful title, says Amster, and Hnath began asking around to friends and colleagues to see what they surmised had happened to Nora after the curtain came down. “Almost everyone thought she came to a bad end,” says Amster. Some thought she became prostitute and died. Others contested she must have found work in a factory, and then died. Still more said that maybe she just cut to the chase and simply died. Possibly worse, some suggested she came crawling back to Torvald. Hnath had a different idea: “What if she was successful?”

And that’s all Amster will reveal. From that jumping off point, it’s just four actors, one set and 90 minutes, he says, “but in that 90 minutes—bam—there is so much going on.” At times thrilling, surprising and funny, the production continues exploring through-lines from Ibsen’s original, including gender roles and family dynamics, but with a playwright’s nuance that avoids political preaching or easy answers. “It doesn’t draw a line in the sand,” says Amster, “but you leave the theater wanting to talk.” And, unlike the latest Marvel blockbuster at the local cinema, one doesn’t need to be an expert or even too familiar with what came before to make sense of this next installment.

A Doll’s House, Part 2 comes to the Asolo Repertory Stage on January 18 and runs through March 1.

Pictured: David Breitbarth and Kate Hampton in Asolo Repertory Theatre's production of "A Doll's House, Part 2." Photo by John Revisky.

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