‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ at The Maltz

Carol Halstead as Nora and Paul Carlin as Torvald in Maltz Jupiter production of A Dolls House Part 2 - photo by Zak Bennett

February 28, 2019 was opening night for Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s production of Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” which runs through March 10. Single tickets start at $60. For tickets and showtimes, call 561-575-2223 or visit www.jupitertheatre.org.

Nineteenth century Danish playwright, Henrik Ibsen wrote “A Doll’s House” in response to society’s treatment of married women, stripping them of their individualities and consigning them to lives in doll’s houses owned by their husbands.

The play, set in a Norwegian town circa 1879, opened at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 21, 1879.

“A woman cannot be herself in modern society," Ibsen is quoted as saying, “since it is an exclusively male society, with laws made by men and with prosecutors and judges who assess feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.”

Ibsen’s heroine, Nora, manages to break free from all the restrictions and walks out on her husband and three little children.  The last punctuation of the Ibsen play is the slam of the door as Nora escapes her doll’s life. It was also said to be “the slam heard around the world.”

Twenty-first-century playwright Lucas Hnath has imagined how Nora’s life evolved during the fifteen years after the slam. Nominated for eight Tony Awards®, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” premiered on Broadway in April 2017.

Not surprisingly, not much has changed in society. But Nora, at first, seems to have come leaps and bounds ahead as a successful author published under a pseudonym. She talks of freedoms and relationships and how wonderful it is to be free.  But is she? I’ll let you decide.

Under the direction of multiple award winner J. Barry Lewis, the four actors wove their relationships convincingly in the fits and starts we humans commonly use when attempting communication. Carol Halstead as Nora is wonderful. She takes control of the stage from the opening lines to the last applause.SFGN_Directorj_3_11_19.jpg

(Director J. Barry Lewis, photo via Facebook)

Mary Stout as Anne Marie was also strong, wringing humor from pathos. Her character uses occasional profanities – often referred to as “F-bombs” which exploded from her lips and caused some of the more genteel audience members to catch their breaths.

According to her bio in “Footlights,” playing Emmy has been a major goal for Mikayla Bartholomew who executed the role beautifully claiming the right to live in one of society’s doll houses.

Paul Carlin pulled together the role of the victim-oppressor, implying that he might like to live in the world described by Nora.

Forty-five minutes prior to each performance, there is a brief presentation in the Theatre that includes an overview of the characters, story, and history of Ibsen’s classic.

It’s well worth the effort to get there early to appreciate the environment about which both Ibsen and Hnath are writing.

“We are so honored to be producing the regional premiere of ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ for South Florida audiences,” said Andrew Kato, the Theatre’s producing artistic director and chief executive. “This play is exciting, inventive and thrilling, and written with such a fresh voice that it’s impossible not to appreciate its charm. Even for those unfamiliar with Ibsen’s original A Doll’s House, we promise that this play will resonate and delight.”

In addition to the director and the cast, other skills are needed to bring the play to life.  I was particularly struck with scenic designer Anne Mundell’s use of an all white, somewhat deconstructed room brought more to life with Kirk Bookman’s lighting design. Tracy Dorman’s costumes were evocative of the period. Nora’s costume, in particular, spoke of prosperity and success. There’s some interesting use of sound in the production by sound designer Marty Metz which I won’t spoil here.

J. Barry Lewis sums it up: “While A Doll’s House was written nearly 140 years ago, it has a contemporary flair that speaks to today’s audiences. It is at its heart a very modern story that deals with selfishness, selflessness, growth, and compromise,” Lewis said. “A Doll’s House, Part II is not a sequel to the original work, but more of a thought experiment of ‘what if.’ It presents a very sophisticated argument about what we owe to ourselves and to each other.”