Who’s that knocking at the door? Absolute’s Nora

March 2, 2019

Remember Nora Helmer, who left her husband and kids, supposedly for good, at the end of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House?”

Yeah, well, she’s back.

It’s 15 years after she left, and as “A Doll’s House, Part 2” begins, Nora is knocking on the door she previously slammed in her husband’s face.

That’s how the play, an Absolute Theatre production opening March 7, begins. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” takes its titles and characters from Ibsen’s original, but that’s where the similarity ends, said James Douglass, who is directing the play.

“It’s not your basic Ibsen,” he said. “The language is modern. It’s very different from the original, although it builds on the original.”

The play, written by Lucas Hnath, opened in 2017 and received eight Tony Award nominations, including for Best Play.

“I saw it in New York, and said, ‘I have to do this show,’” Douglass said. “I applied for the rights as soon as they became available.”

Hnath’s script narrows down the number of characters in Ibsen’s play to four: Nora and her estranged husband Torvald, the nanny Anne Marie, and a daughter, Emmy.

Douglass has cast real-life couple Suzie Hansen and Mark Hansen as Nora and Torvald, along with Janice Hobbs as Anne Marie and Stephanie Trypuc as Emmy.

As you’ll recall (or perhaps not), in the original, Nora leaves her family because she feels as if she’s been treated as a plaything — a doll — throughout her marriage. She departs on a journey of self-discovery, although Ibsen’s play ends when Nora leaves behind her wedding ring and key and walks out the door.

In the ensuing years, according to “Part 2,” Nora as become a writer of feminist fiction. She’s back at Torvald’s door because she says she needs him to sign the final divorce papers.

Is that the real reason she has returned?

“Part of the mystery is why would she come back,” Douglass said. In the play, he said, we see how her return affects those she had left behind.

“It’s a really well-developed script,” Douglass said. “I find it so absorbing.”

Ibsen has a reputation for being icy and dark. That’s not the case with “Part 2,” Douglass said. “It’s not all serious. I think there’s a lot of humor in it.”