Sunday, 21 October 2018 13:06

Arts Capsule: You can't go home again

Written by 
L-R: Caralyn Kozlowski, Andrea Abello L-R: Caralyn Kozlowski, Andrea Abello

If George Bernard Shaw were alive today, he might have written something rather like the show on the main stage at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis right now, Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2.

 

L-R: Caralyn Kozlowski, Michael James Reed
Photo by Peter Wochniak

Set fifteen years after the events in Ibsen's groundbreaking and controversial 1879 drama A Doll's House (of which Shaw was a great admirer), A Doll's House, Part 2 (written in 2017) speculates on what might have happened to Nora after she walked out on her marriage and what might happen if she returned to the same house (and through the same door) she left at the end if Ibsen's original. It's a play of ideas in which no one point of view clearly prevails and which provides much food for thought afterwards. In this respect, the script resembles two others by the playwright that I very much admire, Death Tax and The Christians.

Hnath's versions of Nora, Torvald, and Anne Marie are not, of course, Ibsen's. They're very contemporary in their language and attitudes, rather like the Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine in Goldman's The Lion in Winter. Personally, I think that's a better choice that attempting some sort of pastiche of Ibsen, but your mileage may vary.

L-R: Tina Johnson, Caralyn Kozlowski
Photo by Peter Wochniak

A solid ensemble cast (Tina Johnson, Caralyn Kozlowski, Michael James Reed, and Andrea Abello) delivers compelling performances under the direction of Timothy Near. I found they self-conscious posing of Ms. Kozlowski's Nora a bit off-putting at first, but it soon began to make sense—Nora's "little squirrel" mannerisms had changed over the years but not vanished. Whether that's a directorial decision or something baked in to the script by Hanath, I have no idea. In any case, this is a play and a production that grow in the memory rather than shrink, which I see as a good thing. Performances continue through November 4 at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

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