Theater Review: “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

Fifteen years ago, unhappy housewife Nora Helmers, fed up with her restricted life as mom of three and wife of distracted husband Torvald, stormed out of the house and slammed the door.

Now the Helmers’ old housekeeper Anne Marie opens the door to a radiant Nora (Sofia Jean Gomez), resplendent in a maroon satin floor-length two-piecer cut up to there, with calf-high boots and a feathered hat. The time away has been kind to her.

Anne Marie (Linda Libby) is speechless. After initial pleasantries, Nora says that she’s become a famous (and best-selling) writer about women’s issues, especially marriage (she’s against it).

Nora has sown some wild oats in recent years. She’s found out that Torvald never filed the divorce papers as he promised, and she’s in some danger of legal trouble if that doesn’t get resolved.

Torvald (René Thornton, Jr. enters unexpectedly (it seems he forgot something he needs at work) and doesn’t even recognize Nora at first. But it’s clear he’s still smarting about that slammed door, asserting “I wish I’d left you before you left me.”

They both need closure. And so does daughter Emmy (Danny Brown), now of marriageable age and engaged. Torvald is in a position to give them all that relief.

The story plays out in clever and thought-provoking dialogue that will leave you wanting to adjourn to the nearest coffee house (or bar) with fellow theatergoers to discuss it.

Sean Fanning’s spare set is unusual for him (Torvald has rid the house of all reminders of Nora, including furniture), but absolutely right for the play,

Atmosphere is important, and Jennifer Brawn Gittings’ costumes, Alan Burnett’s lighting and Matthew Lescault-Wood’s sound are just right.

Rep artistic director Sam Woodhouse has found a sterling cast with several new and welcome faces. Gomez, an off-Broadway veteran who is moving to San Diego, brings Nora vivid, determined life without sacrificing her wit and humor. I can’t wait to see her in her next role.

René Thornton, Jr., with many Shakespeare credits (including some the Old Globe), portrays Torvald’s progression from anger and hurt to near-vindictiveness for all they’re worth – which is plenty. It’s a lovely performance.

Libby’s Anne Marie pads around, trying to stay out of the path of the whirlwind that is the new Nora, but not without giving her ex-boss her own argument for staying to help raise Nora’s kids.

Danny Brown’s Emmy is convincingly unimpressed by mom’s opposition to marriage, and doesn’t seem concerned about Nora’s warning about the difficulty of “hearing your own voice” in marriage, either.

Perhaps Torvald sums it up: “ It’s just so hard, being with people. Does it have to be so hard, really?”

“A Doll’s House, Part 2” is one of the year’s best plays. Don’t miss it.

The details

“A Doll’s House, Part 2” plays through December 16, 2018 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

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