Theater review: This time, Nora doesn’t get her way

Emmy (Margo Seibert) confronts her mother Nora (Kathleen McNenny) in the Weston Playhouse production of “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” (Photo by Tim Fort)

WESTON — After 15 years, Nora has returned and she wants something. Unfortunately, it’s not what her estranged husband Torvald, daughter Emmy and nanny Anne Marie want, setting the stage for “A Doll’s House, Part 2.” Weston Playhouse opened its production of Lucas Hnath’s 2017 Broadway hit comedy last week at its intimate new theater, Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm. Saturday’s performance proved most entertaining with emotionally affecting performances. For those not familiar with Henrik Ibsen’s 1897 classic, “A Doll’s House,” Nora slams the door on her marriage to Torvald when he fails to stand up for her after she finds herself in trouble due to helping him. “Part 2” isn’t actually a sequel, as the characters aren’t really Ibsen’s, and their issue is never confronted. Instead, it’s a 21st century feminist take on the situation Nora found herself in, following up on the original story. In fact, “Part 2” is an excellent dramatic comedy, and in the Weston production, riveting. Nora has become a successful writer, and made a lot of money. But, it turns out that Torvald didn’t finalize their divorce, so they’re still married — which means her money isn’t hers, because a wife could not make a contract without her husband’s permission at that time. More than that, Nora’s unexpected arrival opens up lots of old wounds. Not that Nora cares, she wants her divorce and then out. But her meetings with Torvald, Anne Marie and, perhaps most of all, Emmy, prove unsettling to Nora. And she and Torvald finally have it out. And the resulting kaleidoscope human emotions and human comedy is fun to watch, even if you don’t know the Ibsen. Weston’s production, directed by Mary B. Robinson, was a 90-minute emotional roller coaster thanks much to fully developed characters. Kathleen McNenny’s Nora arrived as strong and sure of herself but somewhat oblivious to the needs of others, until cracks develop when facing the unexpected. Though sometimes a bit hard, it was a strong performance. Boyd Gaines was an unexpectedly sympathetic Torvald, a convincingly human mix of anger and regret, fear and warmth. Margo Seibert proved delightful as the refreshingly straightforward Emmy, an unexpected mirror for Norma. But it was Lizbeth Mackay who had the most fun as the feisty Anne Marie. Mackay’s timing and expressiveness delivered the wit as well as the deep emotions of this much-abused character. Mackay was a riot, and touching. Jason Simms’ scenic design was absolutely minimal, just a few elegant chairs on a polished wood floor, enhanced by Ann Wrightson’s subtle and effective lighting. Beautiful period costumes by Grier Coleman and Christopher Colucci’s sound design featuring period piano music completed the palette. Weston’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2” proved an unsettling but entertaining look inside marriage.   Weston Playhouse Weston Playhouse Theatre Company presents “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” a comedy by Lucas Hnath, Aug. 2-26 at Weston Playhouse at Walker Farm, 705 Main St. in Weston. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, plus 2 p.m. matinees Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets are $43, $21.50 for students; call 802-824-5288, or go online to www.westonplayhouse.org.

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