BWW Review: A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2 - The Perfect Deconstruction Of Ibsen's Classic
A DOLL'S HOUSE by Norwegian Realist playwright, Henrik Ibsen is a theatrical staple, studied and performed worldwide since its debut in 1879. The updated continuation A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 gleefully deconstructs the original play with a lot of laughs and a bit of colorful language.
Written by Lucas Hnath in 2017, this black comedy takes on the revered classic by deflating Ibsen's original conceit, that women must be mastered. A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2, currently playing at Austin's Hyde Park Theatre takes on the older work and kicks sand in its face. From the first moment of the play when we hear a knock at the door, the same door Nora made her famous exit from at the end of Ibsen's play shocking audiences of the Victorian era. How dare a woman leave her husband? How dare she leave her children? What is a woman's value, except as a decorative ornament for a man's home? So many questions posed by the end of A DOLL'S HOUSE, but the answers would have to wait over a century and take a clever playwright to dare the answers. Hnath's A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 is an indulgent delight, taking place 15 years after the fateful incident. The reinvented Nora (Katherine Catmull) is spark and fire, giving voice to her fulfilled and free life without society's burden. Former nanny and family retainer Anne Marie (Cyndi Williams) is resentful after being left holding the proverbial bag, and three young children to raise when Nora left. Husband Torvald (Tom Green) has lost much of his autocratic bluster in the ensuing years and flails somewhat blindly for some common ground amid his shock and confusion. Add to that a mother/daughter reunion between Nora and Emmy (Sarah Chong Harmer) and you have the recipe for reinventing and rejuvenating a dusty story that is often misunderstood. I have inwardly apologized to my high school literature teacher who forced us to read the original, I remember complaining endlessly.
The Hyde Park production is virtually flawless. Mark Pickell's set is breathtaking beautiful in its perfect simplicity, I have rarely seen its equal. My over-critical eye could find not a single speck out of place. Ken Webster's direction is masterful, keeping the focus at all times on the actors and highlighting their performance. His pitch perfect pacing hurls the action forward keeping the audience entertained at every moment. Costumes, designed by Cheryl Painter are rich and elegant, attention has been paid to every small detail. I must mention Robert S. Fisher's sound and projection design, the typed titles on the wall made me gasp with delight. Don Day' lighting is impeccable. The entire cast is uniformly exceptional. Newcomer Sarah Chong Harmer is charmingly whip smart as Emmy, the abandoned daughter. She gives the young woman a mature intelligence that is compelling. Tom Green is brilliant as the much maligned Torvald, he gives the show some of its most hilarious moments. As the notorious Nora, Katherine Catmull shows us why she is one of Austin's favorite actresses. Smart, focused and forthright, her heroine is the pivot point from which all the action spins, and Catmull is mistress of the stage. Perhaps my favorite performance was given by Cyndi Williams as the long suffering servant Anne Marie. Williams is just a hoot from beginning to end, her deadpan delivery of lines that would have definitely shocked Victorians, elicits shouts of laughter from the full house at Hyde Park Theatre. The play is a fashionable 90 minutes (and three seconds according to Ken Webster) with no intermission. I promise you will enjoy every second even if you have never even heard of Henrik Ibsen.
Photo by Cressandra Thibodeaux
A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2
by Lucas Hnath
Hyde Park Theatre, Austin
Directed by Ken Webster
February 28 - March 30
Running Time: 90 minutes (and 3 seconds) with no intermission.
Tickets: $21.00 - $23.00 hydeparktheatre.org