Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

A Doll's House, Part 2
Round House Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Holly Twyford and Craig Wallace
Photo by Kaley Etzkorn
In 1879, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen scandalized theatergoers with a story about a woman who, for the sake of her own self-image and sanity, walks out on her husband and three young children. In 2017, Lucas Hnath returned to the story with A Doll's House, Part 2, a clever play of ideas and conflicting perspectives, which Washington's Round House Theatre has staged with imaginative direction by Nicole A. Watson and four actors working at the top of their talents.

The story follows Nora (Holly Twyford) back to the house she left 15 years earlier. Where A Doll's House ends with Nora slamming the front door behind her, this play begins with her banging on the same door to come in. She has found independence and success (exemplified by her elegant midnight blue dress, designed by Helen Huang) but has just discovered that she needs help from Torvald (Craig Wallace), the husband she left behind.

Hnath's use of verbal conflict as the characters share their differing opinions of the same events—as seen through Nora's dialogues with Torvald; with Anne Marie (Nancy Robinette), the servant who raised Nora and later raised her children; and with her adult daughter Emmy (Kathryn Tkel)—suggests a scaled-down version of the cerebral dramas of George Bernard Shaw. For example, Anne Marie greets Nora with "I never wanted bad things to happen to you," a passive-aggressive statement if there ever was one, and Emmy tells how she long believed that her mother must have died to have left her.

Twyford and Robinette, two of Washington's most honored actresses, demonstrate a layered rapport through their scenes. Nora wonders why Anne Marie doesn't think of her as a daughter; Anne Marie talks about neglecting her own child to earn money by taking care of Nora, then finding herself stuck in a parallel situation with Nora's children. Wallace is not afraid to show both Torvald's aggrieved pride and his moments of buffoonery, while Tkel is powerfully straightforward.

Hnath's script suggests that, in some ways, social attitudes haven't changed that much from Ibsen's time. Women with money, whether their own or a husband's, can hire women with fewer advantages to provide child care, but a woman who chooses ambition over either having or caring for children may still be scorned for not abrogating her own needs to support those around them. (The playwright's current work on Broadway, Hillary and Clinton, considers this issue from a political perspective.)

Round House is again performing at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre, an intimate space for Paige Hathaway's minimalist scenic design, the moments of illumination in Harold D. Burgess II's lighting design, and Roc Lee's sound design.

Round House Theatre
A Doll's House, Part 2
June 5th - 30th, 2019
By Lucas Hnath
Anne Marie: Nancy Robinette
Nora: Holly Twyford
Torvald: Craig Wallace
Emmy: Kathryn Tkel
Directed by Nicole A. Watson
Harman Center for the Arts, Lansburgh Theatre
450 7th St. NW
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 240-644-1100 or