MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Prompt for October 2

Write a short review of the play (A Doll’s House Part 2), focusing on specific aspects you thought were successful or unsuccessful. You might focus on: actors’ performances, stage design, direction, or the general interplay between the text and the live action you witnessed.


  1. aspasiatsampas

    While overall, Doll’s House Part 2 was entertaining and enjoyable, there were some aspects of it that rubbed me the wrong way and made me understand why the run of the show as being cut short. It was undoubtedly humorous and did a great job conveying the meaning of the original Doll’s House. Having not read the original, I was still able to follow along and grasp the concept fully. However, despite feminist power and woman’s rights activism, both things I love, I couldn’t help but be a little annoyed with Nora Helmer, the star of the show.
    I know this probably isn’t enough to judge the play on, but her voice was excruciating to listen to. When I first heard her speak, I cringed. Normally, things like this wouldn’t bother me, but in my opinion, it got in the way of her performance and made her message come across more selfish and harsh than it needed to be. It was hard for me to read her sincerity in everything that she did, from asking for the divorce to apologizing for the way she walked out all those years ago.
    She just waltzed right back into the home and expected everything to stop and obey her, as if she hadn’t walked out on her family, never to be heard from again. It’s not the leaving her husband part that rubs me the wrong way, or how angry she is about not getting her divorce. All that is understandable and I completely agree with her approach to fighting for her rights Mostly, it’s how she handled her children.
    I wasn’t able to grasp her raw emotion and the heavy-heartedness she was supposed to feel for the children she hadn’t seen or spoken to in years. I understand the argument is she didn’t want to come back and upset the balance her family had established, scar her children further. However, being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to abandon your children and cut all ties with them.
    And when she does finally see her only daughter, whom she left behind as a baby, she is awkward and frankly manipulating. Nora only speaks to her to try to convince her to get Torvald to sign the divorce papers and on stage, the exchange looks so business-like. Even the daughter seems to have little emotion to coming face-to-face with her mother and I felt ashamed for Nora at how poorly she handled it. She claims to be such a feminist revolutionary but here, her own daughter is sanctioned to live the same lifestyle Nora left behind.

  2. kristin

    As someone who has never read or seen the original play before, I thought it helped me see all sides of the argument of each character. Though I believe the play had a hand in that as well thanks to the dialogue and performance of the actors.

    I will confess that when I initially heard a summary of the original of the play and listened to Nora talk about why she left the house I was rooting for her and for how she was able to find her own independence and freedom and thus the happiness that she didn’t experience while married. But I hear Torvald’s side of the story who sounded melancholic while expressing his reason which in the end made me think that what they needed was communication and patience. That Nora was brash when she left the the house, her husband, Anne Marie, and her kids which really stuck to me as selfish. It did seem like Nora was running away without handling the problem directly though I can’t deny that Torvald didn’t take initiative as well. In the end it seemed like they were able to make amends though Nora, being depicted as a free spirit did not stay with Torvald and instead tried to make the world a better place and face her problems by handing herself in.

    The play was humorous, their vocabulary seemed more modern plus the added swearing made everything all the more relatable to feelings like that of frustration and anger. Certain actions stood out to me such as when Nora talked about the heroine of her who story drank herself to death and right after that Nora gets a bottle out of her bag and downs it like it was alcohol which was all the more ironic since she based the character on herself. It could also be foreshadowing since in the end, she decided to hand herself in and admit to writing the books which could mean the death to her free life. Another moment I believe was when her daughter Emmy talked about how much of a bind signing a divorce will cause for Torvald and herself and Nora retreated to the corner of the room where the walls met and it depicted how cornered and small she was, how the walls seemed like they were encasing her. Then there was the development between Nora and Torvald. At the beginning of their meeting they were meters apart as they spoke to one another showing the distance and unfamiliarity that grew between them but by the near end, when they got to know each other, they were side by side, hand in hand, the familiarity they once knew was there. However Nora was on the floor and Torvald was on a chair depicting how they still aren’t on equal ground. So she leaves to do what she can do, and Torvald let’s her go, albeit reluctantly.

    I thought A Doll’s House was really moving and made one really see how nothing is really black or white, that everyone with their own experiences are affected differently and thus have their own perspective. The play was humorous and the performance really captured the emotions of the characters.

  3. Sarah Taj

    Like many, I entered the theater without prior knowledge of the apparent series. After getting a brief explanation from Leah, I was expecting an inspirational play about a powerful woman reclaiming her right for happiness; what I was presented with, however, was everything but. In the first few minutes, Nora reads, what can be deemed as, a speech. She declares all marriages a sham and couples marriage with the image of shackles tying your heart to a monogamist relationship. Her viewpoint could have easily been diluted throughout the performance but it was presented as the valid view. It was as if the moral of the play revolved around that very aspect; with correct balancing, Nora had the capability of being seen as a slightly irrational human being who had an unfortunate marriage thus why she adamantly believes so. But I never sensed that, throughout the entire play, Nora’s views were bolstered (ex: When Nora informed Anne Marie that many women had left their marriages because of her book; when Emmy fell in love with her soon to be fiancé and her mother, as opposed to displaying pride, she belittles her life decisions in fear of tainting what love entails).
    In regards to the actors’ performances, I was, in many ways, intrigued with the director’s choices. The actor’s and actresses’ clothing and accents dated back to an earlier era yet, at many points of the play, swears were thrown, which to me, lessened the context’s value. If I can retrace correctly, Torvald swore almost eight times under one minute. I viewed it as the characters trying too hard to be relatable/ funny when it only crossed the line as being slightly irritating. Speaking of irritating, I wondered why Nora had to speak in that distinct accent. Her shrills and yells were often much; granted, exaggeration is a common tool in theater but with her rolling around on the ground, it only created awkward distance between her and the audience. In addition, the stage appeared extremely bland, it did nothing to amplify the story line nor did it truly look like the inside of a dollhouse (if that was the intention). With four chairs and one plant, the play seemed incomplete. I was expecting the set to change sometime in the show, maybe by adding furniture but they, instead, had Anne Marie take one chair off stage (for no reason).
    I highlighted many of the faults but I must expose my appreciation for the initiative and courage needed to shift both timelines and storylines. Not one can argue that there is boldness in being public with political views in such a manner. Regardless of what or how that stance was presented, the very essence of having popular, feminist play on Broadway speaks volumes.

  4. xiaoqingc

    To my surprise, I really enjoyed A Doll’s House Pt. 2. Before coming to this play, I had no prior knowledge of the original A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen. And just before the play started, I read an online summary of the original play and had some background knowledge of the context. I think the introduction of the play was presented extremely well, especially for an audience like me who had not little background information. It started off letting me know that Nora had left her family for fifteen years and has now returned. It then successfully transitioned into the overall purpose of Nora’s return, which is to get her husband to officially file divorce papers. Many parts of the play were constructed really well. For example, during Nora’s serious conversation with her husband Torvald, there were brief moments of silent, which gave off an anxious and suspenseful feeling.

    I liked the switching of the texts to each character, which allowed them to provide their perspectives and thoughts on their current situation. During Nora’s speech to her daughter Emmy, Nora tries to convince her that marriage is a disaster and that she should not go through what Nora has been through based on her experiences. I was impressed by Emmy’s response to what Nora believes. She argues that Nora does not know how she truly feels and wants; what right does the mother that left her children for 15 years have to tell them what to do? By the end of the play, I became clear of the character’s beliefs and of my own regarding marriage: while marriage may not be for everyone, it is up to each individual to decide what is best for themselves.

  5. K Campbell

    When we read A Doll’s House in my high school AP English class, our teacher told us that the original production of the play caused riots in the theatre. Clearly, the message of that play, and its unofficial sequel, would not have the same effect now. So, this sequel takes a humorous approach – I suppose this made the play generally more enjoyable, but I felt that it lost the effect of Ibsen’s message.
    The acting was good for the script they were working with, but, as I said, I felt that the script limited the emotional impact. There were brief moments where Nora would yell, shouting about the frustrations of the oppressive society and the lack of understanding of her loved ones, and these moments gave me chills. But, then, she would roll on the floor, reducing her legitimate complaints and social commentary to absurdity. That scene in particular paints an image of a childish, melodramatic woman – the image Torvald always preferred in Ibsen’s work, calling Nora things like his “little squirrel.” The original text is making a clear point: Nora is a mature adult, and Torvald’s treatment of her is almost revolting; it is for Nora’s wellbeing (the circumstances within her marriage nearly drive her to suicide, something this sequel never addresses), and for her grander notions of feminism, that she must leave. This play creates its own message: Nora is sometimes mature, sometimes childish, but is essentially at fault for abandoning her marriage and her children just because she couldn’t be bothered trying to fix it, and her ideas for a society that is better for women (“Marriage will be abolished in the next twenty years!”) are written to make us laugh.

  6. tzipporachwat

    It has been over a week since we saw A Doll’s House Part II and I am still unsure how I felt about the play. I had read Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House in high school so I came in with both advantages and disadvantages. While I knew what the play was trying to continue, I also came to the theater with some preconceived notions. A lot of my expectations that I had set based on the original were not met by this unauthorized sequel. However, if I had not read the original I feel like I would probably not be as critical (though after reading other people’s blog posts, maybe I still would be).
    When I had read the original, I really felt for Nora; she was in a horrible marriage in which her husband constantly belittled Nora and saw her as a little fairy not like a real person. However, upon her return in A Doll’s House Part II, Nora is nothing but selfish and annoying. I totally understood where she was coming from and towards the beginning of the play I wanted her to get the divorce so she could be the strong and independent woman she was trying to be. Then she displayed absolutely no gratitude towards Anna Marie who was just trying to help her. She also refused to see her children, but then when she finally met her daughter she tried to ruin her daughter’s happiness and change her life. Lastly, when Torvald finally got the divorce and ruined his life like she asked him to, she flipped out and changed her mind, showing absolutely no gratitude that he ruined his reputation to save hers. Additionally, her arguments relied more on screaming and kicking than actual logic, which detracted from her views that I really wanted to support.
    Also, while speaking about Torvald, I thought that his representation in this play was very off putting. Maybe I have this view just because I read the first one with a completely different vision of him in mind, but I thought this characterization robbed Torvald of any redeeming qualities he had in the original play.
    There were aspects of this production that I enjoyed. I really liked how the cast consisted of the only 4 people pertinent to the plot, which made it seem more realistic. Also, early on I noticed that there was no music at all, even in the background. I really liked this because it made the play feel more like we were watching real life, where there is no dramatic music to back up arguments. Overall, I feel like A Doll’s House Part II would have been better if I didn’t have expectations of the characters from the original, but I do admit that there were some parts that the production did well.

  7. leahgenkin

    Before the play, I did some basic background research about A Doll’s House Part II, and like many of my fellow classmates, I entered the play with certain expectations (though I never actually read the original A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen). Based on what I read about the original play, the tone is very serious and somber. I expected Nora to be a mature woman just trying to save herself and Torvald to be the narcissist and “villain”. I did not like that in A Doll’s House Part II, the tone is one of humor and not in sync with the original play. Also, in the sequel, Nora belittles her character by acting selfish and immature while her family members are the victims.
    Furthermore, I felt that the script was did not relate to the time period it portrayed. The original play was set in 1879 so then the sequel takes place in 1894. The characters’ manner of speaking in the sequel does not fit with the time period and makes the play feel unrealistic. Overall, the discord between the original play and sequel made me dislike A Doll’s House Part II.

  8. aidansub

    Despite not having seen the original play off of which “A Doll’s House, Part II” is based, this play was able to successfully capture my interest through its modern take on a fairly old play. I was actually so engaged that I felt inclined to watch the original play, just so I could get the full context of the entire piece.

    First, I was actually rather shocked by Nora’s sudden stroke of sympathy when she finally came face to face with Torvald. Any other playwright would have likely had her gladly accept it when he finally bended to her will and gave her the divorce she wanted, Hnath came to a conclusion that shocked the audience, but surprisingly kept Nora true to her character. She realized at the end that it wouldn’t be true to herself to simply have Torvald go through with the divorce, but instead confront the judge and the rest of the public that was angry with her. If she wanted to be the triumphant, fiery female writer she depicted herself as in her book, and if she wanted to avoid letting her readers down, she would face the public openly as a married woman writing about her discontent with the concept of marriage.

    The actress who played her definitely depicted this fieriness well, too. Of course, one might expect a woman who rejects conventional monogamy and the way she was treated in her marriage to stick out amongst her fellow women in the 19th century, but her over-the-top behavior throughout the play made sure the audience knew she was passionate about everything she said. Compared to the complacent Emmy and the traditional nature of Anne Marie’s thinking, Nora’s revolutionary ideas are embodied in such actions as yelling at her husband to see her as an equal and rolling around on the floor. Of course, these actions are humorous, but they emphasize that she has a point to be made, and she may not necessarily be polite about making it.

    Overall, I was very impressed and engaged with the performance, to the point where I’d now like to see the original just to get a feel of the continuity.

  9. Henry Menestrier

    I went into the theatre super exited to see A Doll’s House Part 2: it had been nominated for several Tony Awards, ultimately winning Best Actress in a Play (for Nora), and was generally viewed as a smash hit. You could imagine my disappointment, therefore, when I found neither of those claims to be true. Before I rip into the production, I want to mention the things I enjoyed about the show. The writing, in some parts, was fantastic. The acting, for the most part, was stellar: Jayne Houdyshell (Anne Marie) stole the show (as she should). Stephen McKinley Henderson (Torvald) also gave a stellar performance. Erin Wilhelmi’s portrayal of Emmy was a bit jarring at first, but as the audience learned more about her character and her wants the choices she made throughout became completely rational and justified. Sadly, I can’t say the same for Nora, but that is for a whole other discussion.

    The production threw me off the second I saw the set. Not that this was a bad thing, as I had heard from people who had seen the production beforehand that wasn’t done in the style of a late19th century drama, which was fine; many successful productions have done the same thing (Hamilton, Peter and the Starcatcher). However, the thing those productions did that A Doll’s House Part 2 didn’t was stay consistent with that choice. I saw what struck me as a fairly modern looking set and a flashy neon-looking sign and figured that it would be set in the present day. That notion flew out the window when I saw Anne Marie in old-fashioned maids clothes and Nora walk in wearing a 19th century dress. To add even more confusion, the cast spoke and acted in a contemporary fashion. The result of this mix of styles left me confused as to when and where this play was taking place. This took me out of the plot of the play and made me feel like what I was watching was a piece of realism, a genre Ibsen is renowned for founding. On the topic of speech, not only did the cast have contemporary accents, but the script itself was written as a piece of post-modernist writing: this meant cursing and expletives. Once again, the cursing wasn’t necessarily an issue: it was who and how often the cursing happened. Cursing can be a super effective theatrical device, but the more it is used in a piece the less effective it becomes. In this case, having a maid use the word “shit” or “fuck” three times in two minutes while cursing out her boss is nor effective nor time-appropriate, assuming the piece was trying to do that.

    The play also came off as extremely political to me, which is something I generally don’t agree with. Nora has this huge monologue when she first enters the house about her views on marriage and how women should leave their husbands if they aren’t happy with their marriage. This monologue is addressed directly to the audience for it’s entire duration. This gave off the sentiment of “this is what we are trying to say for the next hour and a half so don’t bother looking too far into what others will say later” instead of letting the audience break down and analyze what Nora was saying for themselves. And when the other characters are given a voice and express their beliefs, Nora relentlessly shoves that same message down our throats, over and over, leaving no room for her to grow as a character or for us to empathize with the protagonist. If anything, I felt progressively more resentful of Nora as the play went on. Theatre has every right to be political, but most you go to a political play expecting it to be political: I went into this expecting to escape our reality for a bit, not to be painfully reminded of it every twenty minutes. It’s also worth mentioning that another reason Nora’s character development feels so one dimensional is because the plot itself is very circular and doesn’t really go anywhere. By the end of the play Nora leaves again, Torvald is left disgraced again, and nothing has really changed for Nora. The status quo, despite everything that happens, doesn’t change. Sure, Nora’s career as a writer is probably over, but odds are she’ll figure something out. Furthermore, everyone thinks she’s dead anyway so the effect is mute. The play is great as a character study of the four characters, and that is reflected in the transitions, but the dialogue in between isn’t presented as such, thus reinforcing that weird mix of styles that is an issue throughout the entire production.

    These problems are just symptoms of a bigger issue: the direction of the play and, to a lesser extent, the writing. The jumble of different styles can all be traced back to the director. Many of these issues I mentioned above didn’t necessarily have to be one: Nora’s monologue being addressed to Anne Marie instead of the audience would have given the audience more time to form their own ideas. When Nora keeps bringing the point up, the audience would have simply chalked it up to Nora’s stubbornness rather than the play trying to send a message. On a similar note, the more I think about it the more the play seems like a character study of Ibsen’s creations, but is directed and presented (in my opinion) as political commentary or a feminist piece. This problem is also due to the writing. the directory may have wanted the play to be done in a time-appropriate fashion, but the contemporary writing makes that impossible. And while the writing is amazing during moments of intimacy or banter, is plagued by expletives and jokes that seem to have been written in for the sake of the audience. In the end, all of these problems concentrate themselves into Nora: while I don’t believe that Julie White is a particularly great actress to begin with, the mix of styles, the clash between the writing and the direction, and the personality of her character reduce her to a mere vessel to further the plot of the story rather than a human beings with thoughts and feelings, which is a problem, given that she’s the protagonist of the show. I left the theatre not knowing who she was and what she wanted, which mirrors the way I way I felt about the entire production: I don’t know what it’s trying to be and what it wants to tell me.

  10. preetiprez

    Since I have only been to one Broadway show, I didn’t know exactly what to expect from this play. I thought I would be walking into a large auditorium with hundreds of seats, so I was surprised at how small the stage was and how close the surrounding seats were. I felt closer to the stage and performers though, and as the play was progressing I even felt as if the actors were speaking directly to us. The beginning of the play off the bat was hilarious. I absolutely loved the female lead role, and how vivacious her voice and personality was. I was a bit surprised at how the acting was portrayed though. I was expecting a more restrained and traditional tone of dialogue, but there was quite a bit of swearing which actually gave a much more modern feel to the play. The best part was the audience’s reaction because it was as If every time the actors said a curse word, the audience would howl. I don’t know what it is about our day and age but swearing evokes so much laughter when watching shows for some reason.
    The topic spoken about was fascinating as well. Marriage is always lauded and thought of as a great achievement in one’s life, however, the way Nora explains it is the complete opposite. I remember one of her lines went something like, “Marriage doesn’t make any sense. How can we be bound to one person our entire lives? I mean who we are marrying, the current person, or the person your other half will be in a few years from now? People change, so when you get married you’re marrying a different person than who you initially sought out to marry”. This hit me and made me reflect a lot about the concept of marriage. It was so ironic that a few hours before the play I was talking to a friend who told me how repulsive the idea of marriage was and how life was better without it, which made me think he was crazy until after I saw this play.
    I actually agreed with what Nora did and felt I would have done the same thing she did If I was in her position, but I would have made the effort to be a part of the kids’ lives. I was also expecting more with the scenery itself of the living room, but the actors did such a great job that I was able to overlook that.
    I also wasn’t a huge fan of the daughter’s role. I don’t know if it was the actor or her role, but she seemed too superficial and robotic for my liking.
    Nevertheless, that was probably what the scripter intended.
    The plot was what was most riveting to me. It was so woman empowering and sparked a sense of new age individuality.
    What I love about plays most is the audience’s reaction. I’m so used to hearing laughs through a a TV screen that when I’m in a room full of laughter it’s an extraordinary feeling. It makes me want to laugh even more even if I don’t find the situation or joke funny.
    All in all, this play is definitely something I would recommend to a friend or family member. It really makes you ponder about tradition and conventional ideas. I mean it is the 21st century. Why then are we still following the same rules from the past?

  11. Ana LuoCai

    Having watched A Doll’s House Part 2 a second time, I came in already having experienced the entire plot once before. I must say that I honestly preferred the first time I watched the Broadway play and preferred the cast prior that led to the play winning a Tony Award. That being said, I do think that the cast that we watched did not match the characters well. As some have mentioned, the raspy scratchy voice of Nora really took away from the performance that I so enjoyed the first time around and I’m assuming the actress took a different interpretation for Nora, being that I remember different actions Nora did from the first time I watched it and this time around.

    In regards to the plot itself, I really enjoyed it. Even though it is the subsequent sequel to an already established story, I was not confused about the plot and quickly understood where all the characters stood. Anne-marie was by far my favorite character–the actress remained the same from both times I watched it. She was definitely the major comic relief that was very much needed in an emotions-heavy story. Personally, I found Nora entertaining even though I still don’t truly understand why she left her family. It definitely needs to be taken into account the time period A Doll’s House takes place in and how women were suppressed and holed into their gender roles. I appreciate that the story plays with these gender roles and goes against it with the liberation of Nora, even though I think it she was selfish. She isn’t exactly a role model, but I do believe she is an incredibly dynamic character and it was a joy to watch her.

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