You know how Oprah does those Where Are They Now? specials. That’s sort of what “A Doll’s House, Part 2” is. What happened to Nora after she left Torvald, their two sons, daughter Emmy, and Ann Marie, the nanny? Thanks to first time playwright (on Broadway) Lucas Hnath now we know they ended up in very funny tragicomedy.
The last time we saw these characters was in 20 years ago (it can’t be!) when Janet McTeer gave her mesmerizing performance in “A Doll’s House” directed by Anthony Page. Each won Tony Awards, as did the production for Best Revival of a Play, and Owen Teale as Torvald. When Nora shut that door and left her family, it was very final, and one of the best nights ever in theater.
So what happened? Well, it turns out Nora, now played by Laurie Metcalf, became a bestselling writer under a pseudonym. She’s made a ton of money. Fifteen years after leaving her family she returns because Torvald (Chris Cooper) forgot to divorce her. Ann Marie (Jayne Houdyshell) has stuck around for meager wages. Daughter Emmy (Condola Rashad) is engaged– to a man just like her father, of course. As Nora rebelled against marriage and domestic life, her kid– who had no mother– now wants the security of all the things Nora eschewed. Isn’t it always like that?
This quartet of a cast is a total winner, every one of them. It’s so nice to see Chris Cooper, the finest of movie actors, return to the stage and ace the whole deal. The ladies are all Broadway regulars, and already have a lot of acclaim. They excel here. It’s too most of America thinks of Laurie Metcalf as Roseanne’s sister from the TV show. She is really spectacular on stage. As Nora coming home to ask a favor of the man she left high and dry, Metcalf is a wondrous mix of hilarious, sad, and angry.
The audience was pretty interesting, too: Hugh Jackman, Bob Balaban, Brenda Vaccaro, Matthew Perry (of “Friends” fame), Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson were among the guests. Sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, Condola’s dad, came to cheer her on.
“A Doll’s House Part 2” goes in the new play category for the Tonys, with all four actors definite nominees. Metcalf will go up against Allison Janney, Sally Field, Laura Linney, and either Jennifer Ehle or maybe Johanna Day from “Sweat.” There’s always a chance of Cate Blanchett, too, from “The Present.”