Thursday, January 23, 2020

Nora returns in 'A Doll's House, Part 2'

Torvald (Michael Champlin), after a scuffle with the town clerk, holds a book by Nora (Gabriella Grier).

Fifteen years ago, Nora Helmer slammed the door to her home in Norway, leaving behind her husband and children in Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.”

Now she has returned in Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” presented by Palo Alto Players.

Using a  pseudonym, Nora (Gabriella Grier) has become the successful writer of pro-feminist, anti-marriage books. She faces major legal problems because it has been learned that, contrary to her belief, her husband, Torvald (Michael Champlin), hasn’t divorced her.

However, Torvald, a banker, has allowed people to think that she has died. If he files for divorce, his misrepresentation would be exposed, ruining his career.

Katherine Hamilton is Emmy.
Nora enlists their young adult daughter, Emmy (Katherine Hamilton), to try to convince Torvald to grant the divorce, but Emmy doesn’t want to jeopardize her engagement and future happiness because of the scandal.

Anne Marie (Judith Miller), the family’s longtime maid, is caught in the middle of this web of dilemmas.

Although the acting by all four cast members is noteworthy, Jeffrey Lo’s direction and some design elements have missteps.

Lo overdramatizes the arrival of each character with piano music, a projection of the person’s name and red lighting. It’s all too gimmicky.

Moreover, shortly after Nora arrives and is greeted by Anne Marie, she reaches into her purse for an aluminum soda can, pops the top and takes a drink. If for some reason the actor needed to drink something, a pitcher of water with a glass wouldn’t be a jarring anachronism.

And in Hnath’s script, Anne Marie sometimes uses four-letter words that are out of keeping with the times and the character.

In addition to the red lights for the arrival of characters, Carolyn A. Guggemos’s lighting sometimes leaves characters in shadows even as they’re speaking.

Christopher Fitzer’s set features white walls with huge, garish blue flowers along with a few clear plastic chairs and table (more anachronisms).

On the other hand, Melissa Sanchez’s costumes for the Helmers are elegant, befitting the late 19th century. The sound is by Jeff Grafton.

Running about 90 minutes without intermission, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” will continue through Feb. 2 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit

Photos by Joyce Goldschmid