Why “A Doll’s House, Part 2” Surprises Audiences

What's Old Is New

Who would ever have imagined that a sequel based on any play by Henrik Ibsen could be a nearly nonstop laugh fest? But “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” now playing on Broadway, is just that. It’s 15 years later, and there’s a knock on the same door Nora had used to escape continuing to be treated as a “doll,” cared for and condescended to by a tradition-bound husband. Is she in trouble? Yes, but not in a way you might anticipate. Her husband, Torvald, never divorced her, which she had assumed he had. A revelation that she is still married would brand her as a hypocrite. Worse, it would make her a criminal. 

She has “signed contracts, done business, had lovers—all sorts of things that a married woman isn’t allowed to do, that are illegal, that amount to fraud.” A divorce would straighten things out.          

My thoughts turned to the Orthodox Jewish stricture through which a woman is not divorced unless her husband gives her a document called a gett. A man gives the gett to the woman. There is no vice versa. Under Norwegian law in 1879 a man can divorce his wife at will, without even having to supply a reason, but a woman can only get a divorce if she accuses her husband of terrible things, like committing incest or threatening her life, and can prove it. 

The play’s subtlety is hidden behind its rapid-fire repartee. One of the funnier lines is Nora’s confident prediction that “20, 30 years from now, marriage will be a thing of the past,” as people realize how cruel it is and “how stupid we are.”   

AILEEN JACOBSON on the Lilith Blog.