Okay, let’s try this one again.  The Lost Year is ending and the season that never happened is gone for good, but now our darkened theatre is getting ready to light up once again.  Plan to join us in September for opening night of our 110th season of Big Theatre in a Small Space, with another exciting schedule of plays never or rarely seen in St. Louis.  

            September 17-26, 2021:  What if you could go back in time and change the one moment that reshaped your life forever?  What if you could see a lost love of 40 years ago just one more time, to learn how her life turned out?  Would you?  Steven Dietz’s Bloomsday, a bittersweet tale of love won and lost on the Emerald Isle, poses the questions.  The answers are for you to discover.  Jessa Knust makes her WEPG directing debut.   

            December 10-19, 2021:  Shirley Lauro’s A Piece of My Heart is, according to one reviewer, “six women telling a story you are not sure you want to hear.”  Four young military nurses, a Red Cross worker and a USO singer fly off to the Vietnam war, full of hope and driven by their desire to serve.  But the life they live there breaks their hearts and, for some, their lives.  Yes, it’s a story you may not want to hear, but it’s also one you’ll never forget.  Dani Mann directs.

            February 11-20, 2022:  In an alternate universe much like our own, in a budget motel room in a snowy part of the country called New Hampshire, the first woman to make a serious run at a major party’s presidential nomination is teetering on the brink of elimination from a race that hasn’t even really started yet; and her husband, himself an ex-president, isn’t helping much.  The play is Hillary and Clinton, Lucas Hnath’s take on what might have happened in that motel room.  Is Hnath’s tale history or fantasy?  We can’t say for sure, but we can promise a show that is smart, funny and full of characters you just might recognize.  Tim Naegelin directs his first WEPG production. 

            April 29-May 8, 2022:  We end our season where it began – in Ireland.  But Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s The Lonesome West is no warm-hearted Irish love story.  This dark, dark comedy is the tale of Coleman and Valene, two brothers who can barely keep from killing each other.  McDonagh makes you laugh and laugh at things that really shouldn’t be laughed about.  But go ahead and laugh out loud.  We won’t tell.  Robert Ashton returns to WEPG to direct.   

            Season tickets for the upcoming season go on sale in July online at WestEndPlayers.org/tickets. Individual show tickets will go on sale in August.  All shows are at the theatre in the Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Boulevard in the Central West End.  Watch for further announcements and check for more information, including public health protocols to be observed at the performances (when they are finalized), at WestEndPlayers.org

Actors, take note:  Auditions for A Piece of My Heart, Hillary and Clinton and The Lonesome West will be held July 17 (Bloomsday, originally scheduled to be presented in April, 2020, has already been cast).  More information and audition sides will be posted at WestEndPlayers.org/auditions in June. 

“Silent Sky” Photo by John Lamb

            West End Players Guild is the region’s oldest continuously-operated theatre company, presenting “big theatre in a small space” since 1911. 

By Andrea Braun
Contributing Writer
It’s difficult to see Nora Helmer, protagonist of A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, in a positive light, not because she left her controlling husband, Torvald, back in 1879, but that she abandoned her three young children in the process. At least there was a reason for it. Like Nora, the children belonged to Torvald, just as much as his house or his clothes. He has help too. Nora had a loving nanny, Anne Marie, in fact, the very one who had abandoned her own child to raise Nora, so she knew her kids were in good hands.
Considering, then, that Nora had to choose between freedom for herself or staying with her entire family, her choice to go away can be justified, at least to an extent. In Ibsen’s play, she believes that her husband is controlling and the eight years they’ve been together haven’t changed him. She even feels at times as if she’s losing her mind. Contemporaneous audiences and critics couldn’t summon up sympathy for this bird in a gilded cage, but to 21st century minds, her actions weren’t unforgivable. Then along comes Lucas Hnath with A Doll’s House, Part 2, with a fresh take on the character.

Hnath uses a modern idiom to demystify the antiquated language and make it easier for us to just sit back and appreciate the comedy and drama happening before us. The first character to appear is Anne Marie (Tina Johnson) when she hobbles out to answer the door, yes, THAT door, located prominently upstage center. She’s not entirely surprised to see Nora (Caralyn Koslowski) after 15 years because Nora let her know she’d be coming, but not when.
We learn that the years haven’t been kind to Anne Marie, at least not physically, but Nora looks and sounds terrific. She darts about the room, finally perching on an ottoman, to catch Anne Marie up on what’s happened. Apparently, she has found success writing about women like herself under a pseudonym, since authors are “supposed” to be male. The drab set has furniture piled in a corner with a few pieces still in place around the room. When a chair is wanted, someone, more often than not, Nora, fetches one from the pile. Anne Marie’s costume is as gray as her surroundings, but Nora is dressed in vivid blue and red. Her plumage is a vibrant contrast to once well-ordered house. We get the impression that the mess represents Torvald’s current faux bachelor life.
Michael James Reed as Torvald. Photo by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL.comNora’s constant motion does remind me of the terms of endearment Torvald used to use for her when they lived together, which she hated. These were references to pet birds mostly, that flit from place to place while having no practical use other than ornamentation. Nora has a long speech shortly after coming on the scene about her life as it is now. She intends to see Torvald (Michael James Reed) the following day, he shows up unexpectedly and is extremely startled, in a Victorian sort of way, to see his wife returned at last. Having learned she’s not his ex-wife, as she thought she’d be, she has come to ask him to file the divorce papers. Nora can’t legally dissolve their bond without difficulty, but he can. And if he doesn’t, then presenting herself as unmarried for purposes of work and love affairs may constitute fraud.
At last, we begin to hear Torvald’s side of the story, but he has to get back to work. He returns later to continue the conversation. Nora solicits Anne Marie’s help in figuring out what to do, and Anne Marie suggests Nora speak to her daughter, Emmy (Andrea Abello). The older woman believes if Emmy asks Torvald to divorce her mother, he will do it. Enter Emmy. Emmy is not what her mother expects her to be. The younger woman has entirely different ideas about what constitutes a proper and happy life, while Nora learns that you do reap what you sow.
Caralyn Koszlowski is Nora, Andrea Abello is Emmy Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL.comTimothy Near directs her first show at the Rep in several years, and she shows why she keeps being asked back. She keeps the action moving at warp speed when Nora’s around, but Anne Marie, and even Torvald, provide a calmer counterpoint. I do have a problem with a choice she made near the very end, but otherwise, Near gives us lovely work. Scott C. Neale’s set is cleverly conceived, and facilitates a lot of the movement onstage. And, of course, there’s that door which we now know lets people out, but also back in. Lighting designer Ann G. Wrightson’s work enhances the overall look. Rusty Wandall’s sound design is fun, peppered with songs that assert women’s power like “It’s Too Late,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and most prescient, “The Woman in Your Life (is You).”
Re-imagining  a character such as Nora, far from the “Angel in the House” of her husband’s fantasies, but a woman who insists on being validated, judging her on her own merits and flaws, is illuminating. A Doll’s House, Part 2 provides a deeper examination of what’s going on with her, shows how her actions may have affected one of her children, and, at long last, lets us hear from Torvald. The play got a slew of awards and nominations; it deserves them.
‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ is at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Oct. 12 through Nov. 4. Visit www.repstl.org for more information.
Photos by Peter Wochniak, ProPhotoSTL.com

A Doll’s House, Part 2 continues The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ Mainstage season, Oct. 10 – Nov. 4. Written by Lucas Hnath and directed by Timothy Near, it’s a period comedy with a modern attitude.
Hnath’s audacious sequel, written more than 135 years after Henrik Ibsen’s original, hit Broadway in 2017 like a sneak attack. Ibsen’s familial drama remains a foundational piece of theatre, with a still-controversial ending in which a married woman chooses to walk out on her family. But Hnath took the themes and characters of that familiar classic and flipped them on their heads, imagining what would happen if protagonist Nora Helmer returned home 15 years after her dramatic exit.
The play presents a bizarre and thrilling sight of Ibsen’s characters hashing out their unresolved issues with hilarious, profane and poetic barbs – in full period costumes, no less.
Caralyn Kozlowski, in her Rep debut, leads the cast as Nora. Her theatre credits include the national tour of Dirty Dancing and the Off-Broadway production The Dressmaker’s Secret. She’s appeared on television in episodes of Law & Order, Numb3rs and Third Watch.
Michael James Reed appears as Nora’s husband Torvald. This is Reed’s 15th production at The Rep, following appearances in Hamlet and Faceless last season. Andrea Abello, as the couple’s daughter Emmy, and Tina Johnson, as the family’s long-suffering nanny Anne Marie, complete the cast.
The Rep’s casting director is McCorkle Casting Ltd.
Director Near returns to The Rep for the first time since 2012’s Clybourne Park, which won five St. Louis Theater Circle Awards – including an Outstanding Director honor for Near. She has directed 11 shows at The Rep, dating back to 1981’s Buried Child, which starred Holly Hunter.
The design team includes scenic designer Scott C. Neale (Georama, 2016 – St. Louis Theater Circle Award winner), costume designer Victoria Livingston-Hall, lighting designer Ann G. Wrightson (Caught, 2018) and sound designer Rusty Wandall (Born Yesterday, 2018). Tony Dearing will stage manage the production.
Tickets for A Doll’s House, Part 2 are now on sale at repstl.org, by phone at 314-968-4925 or in-person at The Rep box office, located at 130 Edgar Road on the campus of Webster University. Ticket prices range from $19 to $92. Six-show Mainstage subscriptions or pick-your-own subscriptions of three-to-five Mainstage subscriptions are also available.
Show times are Tuesdays, selected Wednesdays and selected Sundays at 7 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays and selected Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinee performances are selected Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
For more information on the production, visit repstl.org/dollshouse2.