Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

A Doll's House, Part 2

Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Mark's review of King Lear

Jacqueline Reid and Gregory Wagrowski
Photo Courtesy of Fusion
At the end of A Doll's House, the 1879 play by Henrik Ibsen, the central character, Nora Helmer, walks out of the house and slams the door behind her. We don't know whether she will return in 20 minutes or she's gone forever. We do get it that she's fed up with being less than an equal partner in her marriage, her home, and in her own life. Nora's willingness to confront her permanently diminished position has made her a feminist hero over the decades.

A Doll's House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath tries to answer the questions of what happened to this smothered wife. The play opens with Nora (Jacqueline Reid) knocking on the same door she had slammed some 15 years ago. In the meantime, she struggled for years, ultimately gaining significant financial success as a writer—writing about her impossible marriage. She has returned to get divorce papers signed by her husband Torvald (Gregory Wagrowski), as their divorce was never legally finalized.

While the original play focused on Nora's complaints about her role in the marriage and the suffocation she suffered, the new play gives voice to Torvald, the nursemaid Anne Marie (Laurie Thomas), who was left to raise Nora's children, and Nora's grown daughter Emmy (Katie Farmin). Nora herself can barely edge a word in about the struggles that sent her fleeing—the household members left behind are so eager to air their deep grievances. They have 15 years' worth of resentments saved up.

This play is no picnic for Nora. Each of the other three characters individually rip her up and down for what they each see as her selfish abandonment of the family. Nora tries to explain the utter hopelessness of her domestic life before she fled, but her protestations can't match the passion of bitterness from Torvald, Anne Marie, and Emmy.

I was quite taken aback by Hnath's incisive attack on Nora. There is a certain anti-feminist glee to the arguments. Their case against Nora effectively demands: "How dare you seek happiness," and worse, "Shame on you for finding your happiness while we were left to live in our misery." Yet Torvald has his own legal needs now that Nora has reappeared seeking legal emancipation. He needs something from her, legally. So they enter into a complicated negotiation that at first looks impossible to solve. The fact that they discover a solution comes as a bit of a surprise—it's a tad confusing.

The play is wonderfully well written. Hnath's words and characters display the talent that has earned him expansive praise and prizes. Director Gil Lazier delivers a solid production full of color and emotional sparks. He keeps the pacing moving uphill with intensity, building and building the expression of years' worth of dark resentments. The set is a tastefully subtle presentation of Torvald's home by scenic and lighting designer Richard K. Hogle.

The four actors are fabulous. I have come to expect exceptional performances from Reid, Wagrowski, and Thomas. Farmin is new to the Fusion community. She holds her own well with this well-seasoned cast.

The strongest sparks in the drama fly between Nora and Torvald. Reid and Wagrowski go after each other with fierce fire. I've seen them paired off together before, and they work magic with each other, whether it's loving or absolutely brutal, as it is with A Doll's Hours, Part 2. Reid in particular shows the surprise her character experiences when confronted by the intensity of the vitriol in her former home. Even while Nora half expected a confrontation after her 15-year absence, she is clearly stunned by the ferocity of Torvald who was mostly distant in the original play.

This is an excellent play, well delivered by this director, cast, and production team.

A Doll's House, Part 2, through September 30, 2018, at the Cell Theatre, 700 1st. St. NW, Albuquerque NM. Tickets are $20, #25, and $30. The play moves to the James A. Little Theatre in Santa Fe on September 21 and 22, then the Kimo Theatre in Albuquerque on September 30 for a "pay what you wish" performance at 6:00. For reservations and other information visit, or call 766-9412.