A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2 is a riveting 90 minute look into the flaws of modern emotional connections, all while dressed in Victorian garb. The way that Ibsen showed us the foibles of turn-of-the-century sexual politics, Lucas Hnath gives us insight into the thrust and parry of current relationships. The costumes align the show with the original work, but the racy dialogue lets you know that they are talking about our lives now.
Laurie Metcalf (brilliant) comes blustering in like a contemporary Bella Abzug, until she is challenged and you see the exterior crack. Jayne Houdyshell (delicious) smiles like a crocodile as the resilient and resentful nurse left in charge of the kids that Nora abandoned. Condola Rashad (fascinating) is the self-assured mirror of Nora post door slamming. Chris Cooper (wonderful), is constantly shifting moods in his effort to rein in his emotions. Every single performance is delightfully theatrical and psychologically layered. And did I mention; it’s a REALLY FUNNY COMEDY! Where A DOll’S HOUSE (part 1) is a parable of female awakening, PART 2 shows us why it is so difficult for men and women to get along in today’s self-centered Society.
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PRESENT LAUGHTER by Noël Coward is a funny, droll, witty romantic comedy. Kevin Kline, always mesmerizing onstage, is cast as an aging Broadway star who recites his favorite love lines to entice young women and reacts to minor affronts like he’s playing to an imaginary balcony. This role is tailor-made for him.
Regrettably, Moritz Von Stuelpnagel’s wacky, gag-riddled direction misses its mark. Coward requires a sly, even hand; it is a comedy of manners, not burlesque. Von Stuelpnagel has his cast performing slapstick, mugging and generally overacting, as if he didn’t trust the material to entertain on its own.
If you want the lead character to be recognized as an aging ham, you can’t surround him with prosciutto.
INDECENT by Paula Vogel is a near miss for me. It has a couple of grand theatrical moments that take your breath away and some marvelous acting, plus I always love hearing Yiddish incorporated into dialogue; it reminds me of my Grandma.
Unfortunately, the conceit of having an Acting Company perform the play and the Actors play multiple characters in the play, often misfires. The personalities are too subtly defined and since many Actors are playing multiple characters who are performing the same role in the play-within-the-play, it causes everything to take on a dull drone. I’m not saying that I didn’t know who was talking or why, but that the characters were not precisely drawn enough for me to care. It’s a real shame, there is much of worth here, including a thrilling finale.