Theater review: Lauchengco-Yulo dominates ‘A Doll’s House Part 2’

Carlitos Siguion-Reyna and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in a
scene from ‘A Doll’s House Part 2.’ Handout 

MANILA — The last time the Red Turnips produced a play was in
March 2017 with “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.

In 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 — 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.

Here, 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 done years ago. Her visit also
gave her opportunity to catch up with their old housekeeper
Anne Marie and her grown-up daughter, Emmy.

Shiela Francisco and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in a scene from
‘A Doll’s House Part 2.’ Handout 

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. 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
Francisco’s seemingly comically reactive facial expressions
actually reflected our own bewilderment in Nora’s
pronouncements.

Rachel Coates and Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo in a scene from ‘A
Doll’s House Part 2.’ Handout 

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.” 

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.

Siguion-Reyna, Lauchengco-Yulo, Francisco and Coates during
curtain call. Photo by author

“A Doll’s House, Part 2” runs until October 7 at the 70-seater
Zobel De Ayala Recital Hall of the Maybank Performing Arts
Theater in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. 

This review was originally published in the author’s blog,

“Fred Said.”

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