At the end of a play, audiences often speculate about what happens to the characters after resolution. For those attending the Stars Playhouse this weekend, the answer is on stage.
The North West Theater will present Ibsen’s seminal 1879 family drama ‘A Doll’s House’ as well as 2017’s ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’, in which playwright Lucas Hnath imagines what became of the family Helmer 15 years later, in the directory until May. 21.
David Alvarez, who directs Ibsen’s play, said he was intrigued to be able to present the entire dramatic journey to audiences.
“‘A Doll’s House’ is a classic, with which so many people are familiar,” he wrote in an email. “My interest arose from presenting this piece in conjunction with ‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ as it tells a larger story of female empowerment, self-awareness, self-fulfillment and human growth It is a story of humans and ordinary people living life.
Bethany Lahammer, who directed Hnath’s follow-up, said she wanted to explore these characters “looking to make the best decisions with the information we have and what that decision might mean 15 years later” and facilitate “the collaborative process of actors finding what is changed about them, and what has remained the same reflected in the physical movement on stage.
The two directors have been longtime collaborators, starting in 2018 when Lahammer cast Alvarez as the lead character in “Pippin” at Stars Theater Restaurant. The couple also performed “The Addams Family” at Ovation, “Fun Home” at the Bakersfield Community Theater and various work for Platform Theater Company in the area of mental health. And after those shows end, they’ll team up again for “The Gifts of the Magi” at the Playhouse in December.
In “A Doll’s House,” Cody Ganger plays Nora, who struggles with her limited role while trying to help her husband Torvald (John Spitzer).
In “Part 2”, Bethany Rowlee and Matthew Borton take on the roles as the now estranged couple reunite to finalize the divorce promised at the end of the previous part.
Alvarez said that to help connect the two shows, a modern translation of the 1879 play was used, one that does not physically include the couple’s children. (Cheyenne Reyes plays their adult daughter, Emmy, in “Part 2.”)
“A modern perspective often demonizes women who leave their children, somewhat different from when children were often raised by their nannies in an upper-class household,” Alvarez wrote. “Therefore, choosing a storyline with less emphasis on children was about helping us achieve a specific goal. That goal is to portray both Nora, her husband, and the rest of the characters as real humans with good and bad qualities in their actions and choices. No one is all good or all bad, a theme that can be recognized in any time period.”
Diving into this parental relationship, Lahammer said her favorite scene in “Part 2” is when Nora meets her daughter as an adult.
“This is the only time we see Nora truly unbalanced and unsure of herself, which is a fantastic contrast in the show,” she wrote. “Cheyenne, who plays Emmy, masters intelligence and condescension, connecting her seamlessly to her mother and father, with the vulnerability of a daughter meeting her mother for the first time.”
The makers put in a lot of dramatic connective tissue between shows to enhance the viewing experience.
“There are numerous references to both shows in the other show,” Alvarez wrote. “The public will see the whole story against only one half.”
“The first show will portray the characters based on where they have been, the struggles they face internally, the issues they face. The second show offers insight into how they lived that, who they became, and what this journey of self-discovery may have looked like.
Two Double Doll Days on May 7 and 14 will feature both shows in one day, with a midshow event featuring live music, charcuterie by CHEYcuterie, champagne, and talkback with the cast of “A Doll’s House.” After the conclusion of “Part 2”, the theater will host an after-party event with dessert and a discussion with the cast of this production.
For those unable to spend a day at the theater, each show will alternate between 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. for the duration of the tour. (See box for full schedule.)
Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.