Nora Helmer is dead. Long live Nora Helmer.
In Lucas Hnath‘s A Doll’s House, Part 2 now playing at Artists Repertory Theatre, Nora Helmer (Linda Alper) most assuredly is not dead. After she walked out at the end of Henrik Ibsen‘s groundbreaking play of 1879, leaving her marriage to Torvald, many people presumed her dead. The spurned husband Torvald (Michael Mendelson) has been on his own for 15 years, but Nora’s been busy up north writing feminist books under a nom de plume.
What a shock it is for her old nurse Anne Marie (Vana O’Brien) when Nora blasts in on a winter wind to the home of the man she deserted years ago demanding a divorce. Somehow Torvald never got around to filing, and women’s rights being what they aren’t, Nora couldn’t file without accusing Torvald of heinous and violent behavior, which wouldn’t be truthful.
But now, because of these stupid laws, Torvald doesn’t want to file for divorce. It would cause him untold problems. There are hurt feelings and hard feelings and a lot of yelling. It’s complicated.
Nora’s daughter Emmy (Barbie Wu) meets with Nora to come up with a solution. While she’s at it, this strong young woman brings a lot of uncomfortable truths to her mom’s attention.
A Doll’s House, Part 2 reveals itself as a heavy domestic drama with humorous touches. It is not the furthering of a feminist manifesto that some of us expected. Rather, the play deals with the fallout that results for all members of societies where equity and social justice are lacking.
Luan Schooler directs this smart, irreverent, and timely play. The sparse but beautiful period set is designed by Megan Wilkerson; period costumes are by Robert Brewer-Wallin. Thanks also to lighting designer Blanca Forzan, sound designer Phil Johnson, wig designer Diane Trapp, and stage manager Carol Ann Wohlmut.
A Doll’s House, Part 2 runs through March 3 at Artists Repertory Theatre.