A Doll’s House Part 2 was one of 2017’s most acclaimed plays. As our second title of the 2019 Mainstage Season, B Street Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill gives some background on how the play came about and the impact it has made on theatre.
Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House shocked audiences when it first took the stage on December 21, 1879. Ibsen directly challenged the “bourgeois respectability” of Norway’s upper middle class, specifically society’s mandate that a woman’s main responsibility was to serve and satisfy her husband. Ibsen wrote, “A woman cannot be herself in contemporary society, it is an exclusively male society with laws drafted by men, and with counsel and judges who judge feminine conduct from the male point of view.” So, Ibsen’s main protagonist, Nora, slams the front door behind her, rebuking her upper middle-class life, leaving her family, and venturing out in to the world to discover who she really is. This “door slam heard ’round the world” made A Doll’s House one of the greatest theatrical works in history.
Because of this legacy, many aspiring playwrights have attempted to write a sequel to Ibsen’s classic. However, most have failed. The most famous of these flops was the 1982 musical adaptation A Doll’s Life, which was panned by the New York Times as, “Over-produced, over-acted, and unrecognizable from the source material.” A Doll’s Life followed Nora as she attempted to re-new her life in society. She ended up in multiple relationships and never truly discovered herself outside of the male gaze.
As feminist ideology and women’s right activism came to the social forefront in the 20th century, it seemed truly impossible to continue the story of Nora, one of theater’s greatest heroines. Many people translated the original text to mirror the modern day, but nothing came close to the social impact Ibsen made. That was, until 2016, when playwright Lucas Hnath, writer of such hits as The Christians and Little Red Speedo, was sitting at a table and contemplating ideas for his next play.
“It started with the title,” Hnath said in an interview on Charlie Rose. “I wrote down the title, and it made me laugh.” And thus, an endeavor which no one thought could be done, began. Hnath’s adaptation begins 15 years after Nora slammed the door on her former life, and the first scene is our heroine returning to that same door, knocking, wishing to enter so that her divorce can be finalized, and she can continue her life as an acclaimed author.
Opening at South Coast Repertory in April of 2016, A Doll’s House Part 2 was immediately adored by critics for its humor, wit, and depth. It started its Broadway run in April of 2017, and again was praised as a worthy sequel to Ibsen. As New York Time’s Ben Brantley wrote, “He (Hnath) has written instead an endlessly open debate. Which for the record never feels like a debate, such is the emotional commitment of the cast and the immediacy of Mr. Gold’s fine, sensitive production. This unexpectedly rich sequel reminds us that houses tremble and sometimes fall when doors slam, and that there are living people within, who may be wounded or lost.”
A Doll’s House Part 2 received 8 Tony Nominations in 2017 (including Best Play), and Laurie Metcalf won the Tony for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The play went on to become the most produced in the country, receiving 27 separate productions in 2018. It will make its premiere in Sacramento at The Sofia, home of B Street Theatre.
“The first time I read the play, I knew we had to do it,” commented Artistic Producer and director Dave Pierini. “It’s funny, it’s cut throat, and more than anything else, requires great acting. B Street Theatre has one of the best acting companies in the country, and we knew we could deliver everything this script demands.”
The B Street Theatre production will feature four great actors. Core Company Member Tara Sissom will play Nora’s estranged daughter, Emmy. Brian Dykstra, known to B Street audiences for his superb performance in Red and The Price will play Nora’s husband, Torvald Helmer. Company Member Stephanie McVay will make her debut at The Sofia as the Helmer’s nanny, Anne Marie, and B Street Company Member Melinda Parrett, who has time and time again showcased her talent in B Street productions such as Rx, Elemeno Pea, and Dry Powder, will star as Nora.
B Street Theatre is known for producing the hottest new plays coming out of New York. A Doll’s House Part 2 continues this tradition, bringing the best contemporary plays to the Norther California area. You don’t want to miss this one.
Previews for A Doll’s House Part 2 begins this Tuesday and opens on Friday March 1. Come see this hilarious, critically acclaimed hit with some of the best actors in the country. Tickets on sale now!