Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

A Doll's House, Part 2

The Vortex Theatre
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's reviews of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Under Milk Wood, Dean's review of Divining Bernhardt and Carole's reviews of The Women and The Vagina Monologues

Courtesy of The Vortex Theatre
In A Doll's House, the 1879 play by Henrik Ibsen, Nora Helmer leaves her hapless husband Torvald and her three children, slamming the door on her way out. Before leaving she explains to Torvald that her marriage has been suffocating, that she will die inside if she continues as his wife. Torvald is confused. He admits he's made mistakes, but he insists he can do better. In walking out on her family, Nora becomes one of the first dramatic feminists, perhaps the first.

A Doll's House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath picks up where Nora's slammed door left off. In this play, now at The Vortex Theatre, Nora (Lauren Dusek Albonico) knocks on the same door she slammed, but 15 years have passed. She has returned because she needs Torvald (Mark Hisler) to finally file their divorce papers. She's in a legal bind and believes only these legal papers can bring a solution. Nobody in the household has seen or heard from her over the 15 years—not Torvald, not the children, not the nanny Anne Marie (Kathleen Welker).

For Nora, it's one confrontation after another, first Anne Marie, then Torvald, then Nora's daughter Emmy (Caitlin Kelly). Fifteen years' worth of deep resentments come pouring out. Nora defends herself, continuing to insist that life in the home and marriage was soul killing. Her family members don't buy it. Who pays the price when Nora takes extreme means to save her own life? What about their lives?

Hnath could have titled his play Torvald Gets His Say. He's not so hapless now. In Ibsen's play he was no match for the wily Nora. He's come a long way over 15 years, and he's given Nora's departure considerable thought. He challenges the morality of her choice. Anne Marie does the same. And finally Emmy comes in and gives Nora no consideration at all.

The first time I saw this play I thought Hnath must have a grudge against Nora. He sees her escape as the abandonment of her family. Fair enough, she did abandon her family. But the moral dilemma in A Doll's House, Part 2 is a tad more complicated. A few months ago in a profile in The New Yorker, Hnath was asked who he identifies with in the play. He said it was Nora.

So this time around, I paid more attention to Nora's defense of herself. She's a bit back on her heels. She can't quite match the passion of her family members. She slipped out of the family before any real damage set in. That was the point of leaving, right, to get out before the rot set in? Well, it didn't go so well with Torvald, Anne Marie, and Emmy. They had to overcome the damage Nora left behind. And they're pissed. Given this opportunity, they rip into her.

Yet she does hold her own. Now that Torvald is actually Nora's equal, it even looks for a moment like there is a possibility they could restart their marriage. Perhaps that could be taken up in A Doll's House, Part 3.

The Vortex doe a wonderful service by running these two plays in rotation. They even use the same beautiful set by Ryan Jason Cook, only the Part 2 set is minus a few of the decorations that were Nora's. Director Susan Erickson keeps a steady hand through all of the fireworks. She has put together a solid production from opening to close. Each of the four actors does a terrific job. Seeing these two plays back-to-back is a lovely treat.

A Doll's House, Part 2, runs through November 17, 2019, at The Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle NE, Albuquerque NM. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 p.m. on Sundays. General admission is $24, $17 for students. A Doll's House, Part 2 is running alternately with A Doll's House. Check the Vortex website at to see the schedule for the two plays, or call 247-8600.