Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was sensationally controversial when it was first produced in 1879. The story of a Norwegian housewife, trapped in a relationship and a life that she doesn’t want anymore, the play’s enduring themes remain popular among theatergoers over the past century.
It takes either tremendous bravery or hubris to write a follow-up to a classic like Ibsen’s original work. Playwright Lucas Hnath, celebrated modern author of Red Speedo and The Christians, answered the call in 2017. A Doll’s House Pt. 2, set fifteen years after the initial play’s ending, examines what has happened in the life of Nora and Torvald in the time since she famously slammed the door on their marriage.
The show will make its Toledo debut on January 25 at the chapel in Trinity Episcopal Church, presented by Actors Collaborative Toledo. “It’s interesting, because even though it takes place in 1894, the language is relatively contemporary. Hnath plays a lot with contemporary language in a classical, more old setting,” said director Jeffrey Albright.
Albright, who has admired Hnath’s work for some time, saw the original Broadway production starring Laurie Metcalf in 2017. “I walked away from it thinking, ‘Oh, I have to do this play some day, I love this play,’” Albright said. “I love this playwright. I was in his show The Christians a few seasons back. And he has an incredible economy of language that is just absolutely thrilling.”
While the original work is seen by many as a classic of theater, Albright assures newcomers that they don’t need to be intimately familiar with the original work to enjoy Part 2. “It acts as a standalone piece. You don’t need to have a familiarity with the first one, because you get that within the exposition of the play,” Albright said.
“In the original play, the husband comes off quite poorly— particularly if you look at him through a modern lens. And his character is redeemed. I say to everybody working on the play regarding their characters, there are no villains, and there really are no heroes. It’s just people trying to make their way in life. It’s not like in the original play, where you had a lot of sympathy for Nora, and no sympathy for Torvald. In this play, you get an insight into him, and why he behaved the way he behaved.”
Though the show as a whole offers a somewhat modern view, the settings and costumes will aim to be accurate to the time period— an aesthetic helped by the Trinity Episcopal Church’s
“We are actually doing it in a portion of Trinity called the chapel, which predates when this play was written,” Albright said. “The whole atmosphere, because we’re doing it in this space, looks like the drawing room of this particular home in Norway.”
At its core, though, Albright says the themes of this unlikely sequel are universal. “We all make mistakes, and we all live imperfect lives. I think the four characters in this play are stumbling through life, like many of us do— trying to do the right thing, but also trying to be true to themselves.”
$15, tickets available on toledocitytix.com.
‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ runs January 25-27.
8pm Friday and Saturday | 3pm Sunday.
Trinity Episcopal Church, 316 Adams St.
For more information, visit act419.org