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A Doll’s House, part 2

by Lucas Hnath

director’s notes by Stephanie Gularte

A woman breaks the law and tells a lie to save the life of her husband and the security of her family.

The law she breaks exists to prevent married women from having financial autonomy.

When her actions are discovered, the woman is excoriated, and assured that she will be kept away from her children and unloved by her husband.

After a turn of events prevents the feared damage to her husband’s reputation, she is suddenly forgiven.

But it is too late.

The woman cannot unknow what she has learned:   That the love of her husband and her value as a mother are entirely conditional upon her obedience to a world of bad rules.

A door slams.

The woman is gone.

This is where we leave the Helmer household at the end of Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play.  Now, an audacious imagining invites us back into the home fifteen years later to dissect the impact and the outcomes of that controversial door slam.  As we scrutinize Nora’s choices, compelling questions about gender-relations and roles, freedom, intimacy, love, and marriage feel as complex today as they were nearly 150 years ago.  Perhaps more so….? Today we expect equality and we understand the value of individual autonomy and dignity.  Yet, we still struggle to understand one another, to see the world through one another’s eyes, to feel seen, to trust that we will be loved for who we are.  We unconsciously play out roles in the pursuit of fulfilling expectations that will deem us lovable when what we want most is what Nora described to Torvald in Ibsen’s original work, a relationship with another person that is “true.”

All of these years later, we are still trying to learn how to be together: to truly understand ourselves while making space for the singularity of our partner; to form a bond that allows two humans to evolve as individuals and to grow together.  As Torvald asks in Lucas Hnath’s insightful and irreverent play, “Does it have to be so hard, really?”

– Stephanie Gularte, November 2022

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