"What Lucas Hnath has done in A Doll's House, Part 2 is nothing short of brilliant, and Stage West's regional premiere does it right."
by Jan Farrington
published Wednesday, October 31, 2018
"In its regional premiere at Stage West, Lucas Hnath’s surprising, ruefully funny, and entirely captivating sequel to the Ibsen original, A Doll’s House, Part 2, grabs us from the start and won’t let go. This is “must-see” theater, as compelling as a bonus episode for a long-gone TV series. Fifteen years later, here’s the Helmer family again—Nora, Torvald, the kids, the faithful housekeeper. And when the loud knock comes on the famous front door, we laugh out loud, knowing who it must be. Come in, Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do."
"Director Clare Shaffer’s tone is pitch-perfect and the pacing brisk—though she smartly makes room for the pained, drawn-out silences of real people saying difficult things. In the silences, we hear our own doubts, regrets, unease. Set designer Karlee Perego’s spare Scandinavian parlor, empty but for a few movable chairs and a hat rack, gives us a clue to the current state of affairs: Nora’s piano is gone, her paintings taken from the walls and never replaced. Only their darker-toned shadows remain on the wall to tell us something was there. Tamara Harris’ lighting design is bold and bright, dimming only to mark the play’s divisions—each titled for particular characters, the names writ large across the wall in flowing script. (Calligraphy by digital artist Jacob Rivera-Sanchez; sound designer/projection engineer Jorge Flores made the writing move, and added a lovely pen-scratch sound effect to go with it.)"
"McGrann is a terrific Nora—edgy, smart, funny, proud of herself—and visibly nervous. She’s in a spot of trouble and has come to ask Torvald for help. From the lift of an eyebrow to a habit of smoothing her dress (is it a reset move, putting herself back in control?) there’s a lot of telling physical detail to McGrann’s characterization. Splendid in designer Jeremy Bernardoni’s jewel-toned traveling suit, Nora moves as if she were wearing jeans and a sweatshirt: lifting chairs like a stagehand, lounging sideways in a chair with her legs flipped over the arm, sitting straight-legged on the floor with a flask. She’s confident and worldy-wise…but being “back” is clearly more complicated than she’d thought."
"Torvald (an excellent J. Brent Alford) looks like an upright citizen in his swallow-tailed coat, but admits he feels “shaky” to find Nora in the parlor. Torvald is hard to read (has he learned anything over all these years?) but Alford’s sharply drawn portrait tells us there’s anger and hurt under the surface. Torvald has been waiting for years to say his piece."
"Could daughter Emmy (Amber Marie Flores) shake things up? Flores, poised and pulled in tight, is cool as ice to Nora, but lets her anger out in tiny controlled bursts, like steam from a closed pot. Did she miss her mother? “I’m better at life because you were gone,” Emmy retorts. She doesn’t read books, thanks, and is quite happy to be planning an early marriage. “I want to be possessed,” she says, in a quiet, devastating rejection of Nora’s own choice. It’s from Emmy that we hear the most detailed counter-argument to Nora’s ideas, culminating in a line about the future so cutting that there was a murmur from the audience."
"As Nora’s life and decisions become tangled with the family (and with Anne Marie, who reminds Nora she gave up her own child for the job she needed to survive—working women’s choices being starker than the ones Nora faced), we wait to see if Nora will be tempted, for safety’s sake, by a smaller life…or strike out on her own determined journey again. Hnath keeps us weighing her choices—and on the edge of our seats—until the very end."
'The power of passionate conversation in 'A Doll's House, Part 2' proves a tonic in violent times'
by Nancy Churnin
published October 30, 2018
"Clare Shaffer's carefully equilibrated direction threads a tense, provocative balance among the viewpoints. The rawness of the characters' feelings feel all the sharper in contrast with the simple elegance of Karlee Peregro's set and Jeremy M. Bernardoni's lovely period costumes."
"Shannon J. McGrann brings self-assured force to the larger-than-life Nora, who sweeps back in through that door, sure of what she wants and feels. She's spent the 15 years learning to know herself, her needs, her wants and her dreams. Then, delicately, we see some of her surety chipped away as she catches up with those she left behind."
"Judy Keith's worn Anne Marie, the governess who stayed behind to care for Torvald and the children that Nora left, dishes up a harsh reminder that the only reason Nora had the luxury to go off and find herself was that she knew she could rely on Anne Marie to stay and pick up the emotional pieces."
"As Nora's husband, J. Brent Alford's deeply affecting Torvald brings home the anguish of a man who is trying to understand what he did wrong and why he was judged for doing what he was taught that a man was supposed to do. As Nora's grown-up daughter, Emmy, Amber Marie Flores chills with a smile that is as smooth as petit four icing over anger for the mother who abandoned the family when she and her brothers were too little to understand what was happening."
"There seemed at first to be an uneasy dissonance in A Doll's House, Part 2 opening on the day of the Pittsburgh shootings that left 11 dead. After all, what does a play like this have to say at a time of gunshots and grieving? It turns out, serendipitously, that it has a lot to say not just about marriage, but about how people with passionately opposing ideas, some expressed with strong language, can talk, empathize and, at critical moments, agree to disagree.
Respect for another person's opinion? The possibility of understanding a point of view that you didn't before? That is a tonic for troubled times."
by Nancy Churnin, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, a play about a housewife named Nora who rebels against the unequal treatment she receives as a woman, sent shockwaves when the play premiered in 1879.
And it's still making waves, as is Lucas Hnath's ambitious 2017 Broadway sequel, A Doll's House, Part 2, which pictures Nora returning home 15 years after she slams the door on her husband and children.
Now Dallas-Fort Worth audiences will get a chance to see both plays in overlapping runs directed by women at theaters helmed by women.
In fact, the two companies — WaterTower Theatre in Addison and Stage West in Fort Worth — are offering discounts in order for patrons to see both shows. WaterTower's A Doll's House starts previews Oct. 12 and opens Oct. 15 at Addison Theatre Centre. A Doll's House, Part 2 starts previews Oct. 25 and opens Oct. 27.
A full-day experience is being offered on Nov. 3 for theatergoers who want to see A Doll's House at WaterTower at 2 p.m., followed by a talkback. The event continues with a dinner at Stage West at 6:30, followed by A Doll's House, Part 2 at 8.
A Doll's House, Part 2 has become the most produced play in regional theaters, according to a September survey by American Theater magazine. While A Doll's House has never gone out of fashion, Joanie Schultz, artistic director of WaterTower Theatre, didn't anticipate how much of a live wire it would be when she decided to adapt and direct it.
"I think what Nora is going through in this play has so many parallels to things I'm reading in the news right now," Schultz says. And while Schultz is careful not to make any political parallels, it's hard to miss the intersection between a play about a woman protesting against an entrenched power structure and the current #MeToo movement where women are speaking up about men taking advantage of powerful positions to try to silence them from reporting or getting justice for sexual harassment.
"I have so much admiration for Nora," Schultz says. "She is one of the bravest characters in all of drama. She's not the most educated. She's not the wisest. But she wakes up and she decides to act. In the moment of waking up, we have choices and she makes brave ones. I find her really inspiring."
Current events have also had an impact on the perspective Clare Shaffer, a newcomer from Washington, D.C., is bringing to her North Texas directing debut of A Doll's House, Part 2.
Like Schultz, Shaffer doesn't make political references, but she sees current instances of women being dismissed or overlooked as fitting into a larger pattern that's been in existence since, well, long before A Doll's House struck a nerve in 1879.
"Something that we were discussing in rehearsal that has been very liberating and exciting for me is the way the play helps you put a finger on the root of a prejudice," Shaffer says. "When I was growing up, I remember the times when I was in a room full of men and I felt talked over. I felt my voice was not heard as clearly. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel right. You think at first it must be an individual experience. It must just be me. Part of the power of #MeToo is that we realize that these are shared experiences, that there's a broader structure of systems that are in place that make these things happen."
While the popularity of A Doll's House and A Doll's House, Part 2 is a testament to how far we have to go, the strong role that women are taking in interpreting these stories for local audiences gives Shaffer hope that things may be improving.
It helps, too, Shaffer says, that instead of Schultz and Dana Schultes, executive producer of Stage West, competing with their overlapping shows, the two women have found a way to amplify the productions and make sure both Noras are heard loud and clear, from Addison to Fort Worth.
"It does feel like a crescendo," Shaffer says. "It feels like voices are getting louder and louder speaking out about inequality and how the experience of being a woman is intrinsically different from the experience of being a man."
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by Broadway World News Desk
Stage West presents the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2.
In 1879, Henrik Ibsen's heroine Nora Helmer walked out the door, leaving her husband, children, and societal constraints behind her; Ibsen's revolutionary play A Doll's House propelled world drama into the modern age. Now, in an age when women's issues are even more in the spotlight, Lucas Hnath is revisiting the Helmer household in a bitingly funny and fascinating sequel to Ibsen's masterpiece. The Obie-winning A Doll's House, Part 2 will begin a 5-week regional premiere run on Thursday, October 25 at Fort Worth's Stage West.
It's been 15 years since Nora walked out, and her family has believed her dead. But suddenly, she's back-with an incredibly awkward favor to ask. She's become a highly successful writer, and her life is exactly what she wanted. But now Nora has found out, to her shock, that Torvald never actually filed their divorce papers, and she's in danger of being charged with fraud, and having everything taken away from her. She needs Torvald to proceed, as divorce is a simple process for a man, while a woman has to have evidence of mistreatment. But will he-can he-agree? As it turns out, Torvald has his own issues with the divorce, and so does daughter Emmy. In this taut theatrical showdown, the past and present collide, as Hnath interjects this period piece with some surprising and funny modern sensibilities.
Stage West is pleased to announce a partnership with WaterTower Theatre, who is presenting A Doll's House running October 12 through November 4. The two companies are offering a discount when patrons purchase a ticket to either show. Additionally, a full day experience will be provided with a pairing of the two productions on November 3 where audiences can attend a 2pm performance of A Doll's House plus a talkback at WaterTowerTheatre in Addison and then have dinner at Stage West and enjoy the 8pm performance of A Doll's House, Part 2 in Fort Worth. For more information about A Doll's House visit watertowertheatre.org.
Lucas Hnath's plays include The Christians (2014 Humana Festival), Red Speedo (Studio Theatre, DC), A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney (Soho Rep), Nightnight (2013 Humana Festival), Isaac's Eye (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Death Tax (2012 Humana Festival, Royal Court Theatre), and The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Lucas has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011, and is a proud member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. He won the 2016 Obie Award for excellence in playwriting for Red Speedo and The Christians. Lucas is a winner of the 2012 Whitfield Cook Award for Isaac's Eye and received a 2013 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award Citation for Death Tax. He has also received commissions from the EST/Sloan Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Playwrights Horizons, New York University's Graduate Acting Program, and The Royal Court Theatre. Lucas holds a BFA and an MFA from New York University's Department of Dramatic Writing.
A Doll's House, Part 2 will be directed by Clare Shaffer, recently transplanted from Washington, DC. The cast features Shannon McGrann, critically acclaimed for her role as Margery in Hand to God at WaterTower Theatre, as Nora, while J. Brent Alford, who appeared as Sir Toby Belch in last summer's Trinity Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night, will appear as Torvald. Judy Keith, last at Stage West as Geena in A Funny Thing Happened...New York City, will appear as housekeeper Anne Marie, while Amber Marie Flores, recently seen in Newsies at Lyric Stage, will play daughter Emmy.
Set design is by Karlee Perego, with lighting design by Tamara Harris, costume design by Jeremy M. Bernardoni, sound design by Jorge Flores, and props/set decor by Lynn Lovett.
A Doll's House, Part 2 will preview Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 and Friday, October 26 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, November 25. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. Ticket prices range from $31 to $35, with discounts for the preview performance, and for students, seniors, and military. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are advised). Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org.
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Reviews, previews, and other coverage of Shaffer shows.