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To Be A Woman, To Be In A Marriage: A Review of 'A Doll’s House Part 2'

Here’s a local production of a play that opened on Broadway just last year (April 2017), and immediately picked up multiple nominations for Tonys, Outer Critics Circle Awards and Drama Desk Awards.

 

 

Brought to us by Red Turnip at the 2nd floor Recital Hall of the Maybank Performing Arts Theater BGC, A Doll’s House Part 2 is the directorial debut of Cris Villonco, and features her uncle, Carlos Siguion-Reyna, taking a break from his own directing chores, and performing as a member of the four-person cast.

 

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Written by Lucas Hnath, ADHP2 basically picks up from where Ibsen’s seminal play concludes. If you recall, that 1879 drama was a big scandal back then for daring to depict a woman, Nora, who questions her marriage and deserts both husband and children, and yet, is treated as a heroine. With Part 2, Hnath creates a scenario where Nora returns after 15 years, is a successful woman novelist, and confronts husband Torvald, the nanny Anne-Marie, and meets her now grown-up daughter Emmy.

 

 

Full of explanations, catching up, recriminations, tense confrontations and negotiations, the drama is a veritable minefield of understanding and misunderstanding —and we, the audience, are transfixed, with the vicissitudes of marriage, personal fulfilment, and the role of women in society.

 

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It’s a play with more than enough ‘food for thought’, and presiding over the layers of simmering emotions and resentments is Nora (the always grand Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo). From the first scene, as she is received by nanny Anne-Marie (Sheila Francisco), there is the dramatic give-and-take of lines, of the underlying tension caused by her reappearance—how her sudden vanishing was taken during the intervening years; was she sick, had she passed away, and so on.

 

 

And so, the stage is set for the inevitable reunion of Nora and Torvald (Carlos Siguion-Reyna), and introducing herself to daughter Emmy (Rachel Coates).

 

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If this was a prize fight, we would lose count of the punches thrown by all four contenders. Separation, deserting your role as wife and/or mother, there’s a long list of simmering resentments that transform to verbal sparring of the highest order. And it’s interesting to note that legal status of women aside, so much of what is being aired, holds true today as it did in the play’s temporal context of the late 19th century.

 



Kudos to our ‘virgin’ director Cris for her masterful handling of the material. The cast is superb: Sheila Francisco is a bundle of nerves, balancing between the expected demeanour of hired help and bursts of outspoken critic, while Carlitos uses nervous tics and mannerisms to display the inner tension boiling within this mild-mannered bourgeois banker, and Rachel is ice-princess daughter covering up the hurt of years of maternal neglect.

 

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And of course there’s Menchu, who is in every scene, gifting us with the Grand Tour of every woman’s dilemma—how to function and experience personal growth and worth, while conforming to the roles and parameters marriage and society have dictated.

A Doll's House Part 2 runs until the 7th of October so make a beeline to catch this thinking person’s play. Heightened by shafts of ironic humour, this insightful production deserves to be seen.

 


Lead images by Philp Cu-Unjieng