“A Doll’s House, Part 2”: funny, Nora’s back in town

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"A Doll's House, Part 2" Photos by T. Charles Erickson
An darkly funny adult comedy at the George Street Playhouse

One of the great theatrical games is to imagine just what happened after Nora Helmer walked out of her house, slamming the door behind her, at the end of Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama A Doll’s House. Playwright Lucas Hnath has created his own take on what happened with A Doll’s House, Part 2. It’s a darkly funny and adult comedy that’s being presented by the George Street Playhouse on the Cook College campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

"A Doll's House, Part 2" Photos by T. Charles Erickson
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” Photos by T. Charles Erickson

The one-act play is mostly a succession of dialogues between Nora (Kellie Overbey) and three members of the household she left behind 15 years ago. Nora believed that her husband Torvald (Andrew Garman) would divorce her after she left. But he didn’t. And now Nora faces serious legal punishment for actions she undertook without the consent of her husband. Nora’s out to get the divorce, but none of the people she speaks to are willing to help her.

Anne Marie (Ann McDonough), Nora’s nanny and the nanny to Nora’s children, felt undeservedly deserted when Nora left and suggests Nora should face the consequences of her actions. Torvald cannot comprehend why he should do her a favor by divorcing her after all these years. Nora’s youngest child and only daughter, Emmy (Lily Santiago), is now a young woman who feels having a divorcee for a mother would be a scandal that would ruin her chances for marriage. All four have reasonable arguments for their points of view. Because of her absence from them, Nora is no longer able to see things their way; because they have no idea of what she’s been through, they cannot see things her way.

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Director Betsy Aidem smartly puts the cast through their paces
"A Doll's House, Part 2" Photos by T. Charles Erickson
“A Doll’s House, Part 2” Photos by T. Charles Erickson

Actress Betsy Aidem, making her George Street directorial debut, smartly puts the cast through their paces. Her skill shows best in the final long scene between Nora and Torvald, a verbal battle royale between the Helmers both deadly serious and outrageously funny. Ms. Aidem’s directorial chops are also highlighted in the scene between Nora and Emmy, where Emmy matter-of-factly demolishes her mother by stating she neither shares Nora’s experience-based beliefs nor believes they have any relevance to her. Deb O has created a bleak set, a single gray-walled room with sparse utilitarian furniture and an out-of-tune piano, gloomily lit by Rick Fisher. Olivera Gajic’s costumes are equally wan, save for the bright scarlet flash that is Nora.

One of the main virtues of A Doll’s House, Part 2 is that you don’t need to know Ibsen’s play in detail going in. Hnath’s play stands on its own as a dramedy, telling you all you need to know to understand and enjoy the experience. I encourage the serious theatregoer, especially those who enjoy a more serious brand of humor, to visit A Doll’s House, Part 2 at the George Street Playhouse.

A Doll’s House, Part 2 is presented by the George Street Playhouse on the Cook College campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick through December 23, 2018. For tickets and information, visit GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org. Video clip: youtube.com/watch?v=VLCkpd2HhFM.