Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review of Red Turnips' A DOLL'S HOUSE PART 2: Fiery Feminist Frankness

September 16, 2018

The last time the Red Turnips produced a play was March of 2017 with the disturbing "The Nether," a thought-provoking, even disturbing, play that the Turnips aimed to tell us. Since then however, they took a self-imposed hiatus of more than a year, before announcing their latest production, "A Doll's House Part 2." This play marked the debut performance of Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in a Red Turnip production, as well as the debut of Cris Villonco to direct a play, the last Turnip to do so.

Henrik Ibsen's classic 1879 play "A Doll's House," Torvald and Nora Helman were a middle-class couple who lived in Norway during the 19th century, contemporary at that time. He was a banker and she was a housewife. They had three kids, namely Ivar. Bobby and Emmy. At the end of the play, Nora realized she had had enough of Torvald's narcissism and condescencion towards her, and decided to leave her family behind and find herself.

American playright Lucas Hnath wrote a sequel to "A Doll's House" in 2016. It debuted on Broadway in 2017, running from March to September.  The play had eight nominations at the 2017 Tony Award namely: Best Play, Best Director (Sam Gold), Best Lead Actor (Chris Cooper), Best Lead Actress (Laurie Metcalf), Best Actress in a Featured Role (Jayne Houdyshell and Condola Rashād), and Best Costume Design (David Zinn), with Metcalf bringing home the Tony.

Nora suddenly showed up at her former house 15 years after she left. Apparently, she had done very well for herself during all that time as a successful book author, writing about her own experiences and thoughts about married life as a woman. However a serious legal issue came up as a result of her writing. This forced her to return to request Torvald to settle something she thought he had been done years ago. Her visit also gave her opportunity to catch up with their old housekeeper Anne Marie and her grown-up daughter, Emmy.

Director Cris Villonco on the set of #ADHP2
(photo from the Red Turnips FB page)

Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo was so dominating as the new and improved Nora, brimming with self-confidence and feministic pride. She got to deliver some of the most audaciously defiant lines of the play about women and marriage, which would be even more controversial during the time the play was set during the early 1900s. Lauchengco-Yulo's conviction in Nora's incendiary mutinous beliefs was so powerful that she sounded so scarily convincing. This is not an easy play for husbands to watch with their wives together.

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna played Torvald as an emotional mess of man seemingly still unable to move on from their separation. I only knew Siguion-Reyna as a director of films and plays, but this was the first time I had seen him onstage as an actor. His Torvald's fragile ego was out there for all of us to witness, and it can be painful. As a husband myself, I can actually see his points and where he is coming from. Haha! This is another reason why it may be risky for a couple to watch this play together, as post-play discussions could escalate into arguments. Be warned, it is that provocative.

Shiela Francisco was a delight as Anne Marie. She was initially so excited and welcoming to see Nora back as she was her ward first before Nora's kids. However, when Nora revealed her real reason for coming, Anne Marie began to squirm with discomfort. This later turns into disgust as Nora tried to further manipulate Anne Marie's own beliefs about marriage and leaving children behind. Nora was ruthless with Anne Marie, and Ms. Francisco's seemingly comically reactive facial expressions actually reflected our own bewilderment in Nora's pronouncements.

Rachel Coates played Emmy, the only character in this sequel completely of Hnath's creation since this character was still a small child in Ibsen's play. Emmy was self-assured in the presence of her mother's suprise visit, as relative newcomer Coates was unfazed to trade intense lines with the Queen of Philippine Theater herself. Emmy was not averse to do something under the table to settle the legal kinks, a direct reference to a similar illegal act Nora was involved in in the first play, in a sly bit of saying "like mother, like daughter." 

Siguion-Reyna, Lauchengco-Yulo, Francisco and Coates
during their curtain call

The set of the play (by Joey Mendoza) was not fancy, just a couple of chairs in a living room, a high ceiling with a chandelier and a couple of walls to indicate a doorway on one side and a hallway on the other. The actors would just move the chairs around to change things around a little once in a while, with the lights (by John Batalla) casting some dramatic shadows.

Basically, director Cris Villonco made sure that it was just the actors and those sharp dialogue they were delivering on that stage that riveted our attention. These were words that, beneath their seemingly humorous nature, will definitely shake our own perspectives about the hallowed sacrament of matrimony between men and women.


"A Doll’s House, Part 2’ premiered last September 15, 2018 at the 70-seater Zobel De Ayala Recital Hall, on the second floor of the Maybank Performing Arts Theater in Bonifacio Global City. It will run up to October 7, 2018. Showtimes at 8 pm on Fridays to Sundays, with 3 pm matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets at P1,500 and P1,200. 

Where your seat is located matters because the chairs are only on one level in each section. Therefore if you are seated at the back, your view will be partially obstructed as mine was by the tall guys in front of me. So do try to get your front row tickets early! And no, you do not really need to (re-)read Ibsen's "A Doll House" to fully appreciate this play.

No comments:

Post a Comment