It's probably the most famous door slam in the history of theater. In the final moments of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, A Doll’s House, Nora Helmer decides to leave her husband and three children, walking out on the stifling constraints of 19th-century marriage for, well, we never find out. The curtain comes down, and for the past 100-plus years, audiences have had to guess whether everything worked out for Nora.
Until now, anyway. A new play, with the Hollywood-sounding title A Doll’s House, Part 2, proposes answers to some of our questions long after Ibsen’s death. Now playing at the John Golden Theatre in New York, it stars Laurie Metcalf (a Broadway regular best known for the ABC sitcom Roseanne) as Nora and Chris Cooper (an Oscar winner for Adaptation) as her husband (through July 30). Sam Gold, who won a Tony for the musical Fun Home, directs. The sequel was written by American playwright Lucas Hnath, author of 2015’s The Christians.
Hnath didn’t try to make it seem like he’d discovered a long-lost text by the Norwegian master. “I wasn’t trying to pretend I’m Ibsen,” he says. “It was mostly about reexploring some of the ideas in his play. I’m fascinated by the subject of divorce. How do you separate from somebody? Why do we even still have the institution of marriage?”
To be fair, some audiences once got a fleeting glimpse of Nora’s future. In 1982, Harold Prince took a shot at a sequel with the musical A Doll’s Life, which imagined that after leaving her husband, she had lots of affairs and low-paying jobs. The show closed after five performances. Hnath isn’t worried. “We decided to leave out the song-and-dance numbers."