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When I first started covering regional theater 16 years ago, I was astonished to discover that what I then called “Broadway-quality shows” could be seen in every corner of the country. That condescending phrase, though, proved inadequate, since most of the shows I saw on the road were at least as good as—or better then—anything on Broadway. Moreover, the vast majority of America’s large- and medium-sized cities are home to at least one high-quality theater company…
Among the finest of them is Fort Myers’ Florida Repertory Theatre. Located in a city better known for its beaches, Florida Rep is noteworthy for its beautifully proportioned 393-seat Arcade Theatre, a former vaudeville house built in 1915 and converted into a legitimate proscenium-stage theater after a stretch as a downtown movie house, and its semi-permanent ensemble of actors, directors, designers and stage managers, all of whom know each other’s work so well that the company’s shows have a single-minded artistic unanimity you never see on Broadway.
“A Doll’s House, Part 2,” Florida Rep’s last scheduled show before being shuttered by the virus, was a production of Lucas Hnath’s 2017 sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s bourgeois-baiting 1879 play in which Nora Helmer, an emotionally unfulfilled mother of three, walks out on her family to seek a more abundant life, slamming the front door behind her as she departs. In Mr. Hnath’s play, she comes home 15 years later to settle scores with her husband, having since written a best-selling memoir about what a jerk he was….
Florida Rep’s revival makes a potent and, in my case, surprising case for the sheer theatrical effectiveness of “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” which Chris Clavelli has wisely staged less as a Major Political Statement than as a domestic comedy with feminist overtones. The four performances are broader in tone than those of their Broadway counterparts, always to good effect…
* * *Read the whole thing here.
The trailer for A Doll’s House, Part 2: