Don’t Go Knockin’ at My Door – a review of “A Doll’s House Part 2”

Mike Buzzelli

By Michael “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

Nora (Lisa Velten Smith) knocks on the very same door she slammed fifteen years earlier when she walked out on her husband, Torvald Helmer (Daniel Krell), and her children (in Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House”). Playwright Lucas Hnath grabs those characters from Ibsen’s play and launches them into new and unfamiliar territory in “A Doll’s House Part 2.”

Side note: You do not need to have seen the Norwegian playwright’s work to figure out the plot of the uncharacteristically funny sequel. All will be revealed.

Anna Marie (Helena Ruoti), the Helmer family nanny, opens the aforementioned door to see Nora before her. Anna Marie welcomes her with sickeningly sweet passive aggressive charm. The two catch up – filling in some of the much-needed exposition (and revealing the events from the original).

Due to some dire extenuating circumstances, Nora has returned to ask Torval for a divorce. When Torvald refuses her, Nora must find another option. Anna Marie suggests that she speak with Emmy (Marielle Young), Nora’s youngest daughter. Because Emmy was a baby when Nora left, she barely remembers her mother, and denies her mother her request – additional extenuating circumstances are revealed. For one reason or another, Torvald, Nora and Emmy are all at cross purposes.

It’s an intricately woven dance of deceptions that lead to more shocking and hilarious revelations – like a game of Mahjong – each player slowly revealing their tiles.

Nora (Lisa Velten Smith) gets reacquainted with her old nanny, Anna Marie (Helena Ruoti). Photo credit: Michael Henninger

Pittsburgh’s own Ted Pappas returns to direct “A Doll’s House Part 2,” and it’s one of his finest productions. The script is sharp, pointed and very witty. It’s also very controversial.

Additional side note: Hnath likes to stir the pot. His play, “The Christians,” raises uncomfortable questions on faith. In “A Doll’s House Part 2,” he uses humor to get away with some controversial material that may anger some traditionally-minded audience members.

Nora and Torvald grow in fascinating ways during their brief reunion. The two actors have amazing chemistry.

It’s also a star turn for Velten Smith. She shines here – brighter than ever. She is a commanding and demanding presence on the stage.

Krell’s Torvald is incredibly complex. Torvald is weakened by her surprise appearance, but grows into a strong, gentle man. Krell gives a multi-layered performance.

Emmy is young, enthusiastic, bright and strong. Young does a marvelous job.

Even in the presence of three other top notch actors playing at the top of their game – Ruoti steals every moment she’s on stage. Her comic turn as Anna Marie is brilliant – even when uttering a curse word – the audience burst into laughter.

There is very little action in the play. Everything hinges on the power of the script and the performers on a nearly barren stage (James Noone beautifully replicates the round, unadorned room from the Broadway production). If you do get bored, you can examine Gabriel Berry’s intricate and exquisite costumes.

“A Doll’s House Part 2” is a treatise on feminism and independence, but more importantly, it’s about the vast gulf between love and marriage.


“A Doll’s House Part 2” is at the O’Reilly Theater 621 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here. Please note that The Pittsburgh Public Theater has increased its security measure, and you may need extra time to get to the show. For more information, click here. 

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