Saturday, April 16, 2022

A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 Lucas Hnath

 Every company, from Broadway to  small theatre  in a converted store front has an obligation to do a couple of things: 

The essence of the company must serve itself and also find ways to serve their patrons... established and/or invited.  When caryn desai's International City Theatre steps up to produce a play that may challenge its patrons, that's a brave move. The circumstances of our dampanic which pressed ICT into Zoom did not stop their service to the community. This is what thoughtful producers do. The continuing concerns about how to safely come together in the audience present different levels of protocol.  Protocol at ICT in Long Beach is all masked up and ready for new audiences now. 

This brief prologue is to encourage fans of exciting theatre to stretch their boundaries to support ICT that has served the Long Beach community with professional productions for many years. 

Founded in 1985, and finding a home in the beautiful Beverly O'Neill Theatre, ICT has worn many hats catering to the tastes of patrons and to their credit has continued to produce Challenging Theatre. 

That said, this is an unusual couple of days for me.  I often research the plays that I'll see and findng the roots of "A Doll's House, Part 2" revealed that in the original Broadway production of the play in 2017 with Chris Cooper as Torvald and Laurie Metcalf as Nora, and Jayne Houdyshell as Anne Marie, Emmy was played by a beautiful young actress: Condola Rashad. Last Wednesday, I reviewed "Blues for An Alabama Sky", directed by Phylicia Rashad who is Condola's mom.  

The serendipity of coincidence factors into my discussion of the ICT production because I like the idea of this strong theatre family coming together.  So?? Before Broadway?  Almost to the day, April 14, 2017, South Coast Repertory Theatre had commissioned this play and produced it in Orange County. ICT's production brings the play right back home.

Jennifer Shelton and Scott Roberts
Photo by Kayte Deioma
Lucas Hnath's play takes place fifteen years after the end of Ibsen's "A Doll's House", when Nora stepped into the abyss to escape Torvald's grasp,  leaving her husband and their three kids. In the fifteen years that have passed, Nora had thought that her husband must have filed for divorce. It is now 1894.  He has not. Trouble. 

The ICT cast features Boston Court founder Eileen T’Kaye as Anne Marie, Jennifer Shelton as Nora, Scott Roberts as Torvald and Nicolette Ellis as Emmy. Individually, and together, they land on a stark minimalist set by Yuri Okahana-Benson. It features the all important door directly upstage. Action comes to life through spotlighted announcements when each character has a 'say' regarding their current state of affairs. This play is boldly theatrical.

I've often referred to Hnath as a 'left handed playwright'. That's because he gives voice to actions that don't always behave as we might expect.  The challenge to the audience is to keep up and pay attention.  The speeches are crystal clear.

I recently met a 'retired' theatre critic whose cynical take on what critics do made me wonder if all we do is parrot the press release.  To me, for any given performance,  the work ... especially on opening night.. has an energy that permeates the audience and those on the stage and in the booth and in the wings.    To report the energy of the play and to provide an objective take on that performance may serve two masters:  

One: those who know the crititc's tastes may take that into consideration to decide to attend the show.. or not..

Two: To give an objective point of view for the producers to consider.  Every critic "directs" any play we might see in our own minds. When the show echoes our idea, that creates a good review, or a quote that the producer may use in their ads. Regardless, the review is an insight for patrons and producers/actors/technicians alike.

That said.. 

The stark setting of ADHP2 by  Okahana-Benson is spare: reflecting the feeling that I've always gotten from Ibesn.  Chilly and stark. (one production note: from audinece left, there is a glass panel way over on audience right that mirrors the action on the stage that is distracting. A black drape would be a good idea there.).  The circular playing space in two levels with a table and three chairs focuses all of the action on the players. It becomesThe Arena for the dance of conflict.  If Ibsen's play opened the door to feminism as we now may define it with Nora's bold exit, Hnath's play adds nuance to the discussion.

Director Trevor Biship-Gillespie keeps it simple as the action escalates. 

Highly recommended. Arriving early and findng parking will lend itself to a bite to eat in the neigbhborhood.  


By Lucas Hnath

Long Beach Performing Arts Center
330 East Seaside Way
Long Beach, CA 90802

Previews: April 13 and April 14 at 8 p.m.
Performances: April 15 – May 1
Wednesday at 8 p.m.: April 13 ONLY (preview)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: April 14 (preview), April 21, April 28
Fridays at 8 p.m.: April 15 (Opening Night), April 22, April 29
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: April 16, April 23, April 30
Sundays at 2 p.m.: April 17, April 24, May 1

Tickets and Information:


Please check the International City Theatre website at prior to each performance for current, up-to-date Covid-19 safety protocols.




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