Review: Weston's thought-provoking 'A Doll House Part 2'

When Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House" opened in 1879, audiences were shocked that a woman, even one suffering an unhappy marriage such as Nora, would choose to leave her husband and three children to seek a new life. Ibsen's play ends with Nora closing the door to the family home behind her.

In "A Doll's House, Part 2," playwright Lucas Hnath picks up the story fifteen years later and imagines what would happen if Nora returned. Using modern vernacular, Hnath arms Nora with arguments that traditional marriage is outmoded and how the sexes should interact. Hnath, however, affords equal time to the voices of those left to pick up the pieces after Nora's departure: her husband Torvald, house maid Anne Marie, and Torvald and Nora's adult daughter Emmy. On opening night, Weston's imaginative rendering of this powerful sequel left theatregoers with much to ponder.

Kathleen McNenny's Nora exhibited charm and style, as well as a strong self-awareness, something Ibsen's Nora only found as she walked out the door. McNenny showed how well Nora wore her hard-earned success as a published author, but also how her character was cut to the quick when the others made it plain that Nora's needs were not their needs.

When Nora left fifteen years before, it was Anne Marie who ran Torvald's household and raised the children, now all grown. Economic circumstances demanded that Anne Marie stay in Torvald's employ, forcing her to leave the care of her own child to others. Lizbeth Mackay's Anne Marie had gumption and let Nora know how much she resented being put in an awkward position by someone who just waltzed back into Torvald's life without consideration or thanks to her.

Nora received her comeuppance when asking her daughter Emmy to intercede with Torvald. As Emmy, Margo Seibert coldly informed Nora that she was not interested in going out of her way to help someone who did not convey any interest in her life or the lives of her brothers. If Emmy was to help Nora, it would be on her terms.

Boyd Gaines's interpretation of Torvald was that of a weak, befuddled man who didn't get it fifteen years ago and still didn't. Gaines allowed us to see how Nora's departure had broken Torvald and left him emotionally paralyzed. When at the end of the play, Torvald and Nora paused after their first totally honest conversation, Gaines and McNenny, who are married in real life, telegraphed their character's acceptance of the other's lot.

Working with director Mary B. Robinson, scenic designer Jason Simms's spare set featured a hardwood floor and showcased the imposing entrance door - yes, that door - apparently a replica of that found in Ibsen's Norwegian home, now a museum. Preceding each scene, lighting designer Ann G. Wrightson projected titles on to the wall, much like the titles to chapters in a book. Costume designer Grier Coleman's period costumes reminded us that while the speech was modern, the action of the play remained firmly grounded in 1894.

Leaving the theatre, I mentioned to a female theatregoer that the character of Nora left me cold. Nora's polemic on marriage was one thing, but her insistence on converting others to her way of thinking went too far. The theatregoer replied that like Torvald, I just did not get it. Perhaps so.

The strength of Hnath's sequel to Ibsen's classic and Weston's production lies in the skillful portrayal of well-crafted, fully-rounded characters that elicit spirited discussion and possibly empathy.

Performances of "A Doll's House, Part 2" continue through August 26th at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, just a stone's throw north on Route 100 from Weston Village. For ticket information, call the WPTC box office at (802) 824-5288 or visit its website at


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