Marriage and Feminism Clash in WNC Playwright Brenda Lunsford Lilly’s “Doll”

Mary Katherine O’Donnell and Maximilian Koger appear as a young, successful ,married couple in the 1960’s set Doll by Asheville native and award-winning playwright and screen writer Brenda Lunsford Lily; the production runs April 19-May 5 at The Magnetic Theatre. Tickets and info at

Asheville-based playwright Brenda Lunsford Lilly’s blistering play, Doll, will have its Asheville premiere at The Magnetic Theatre with a three week run beginning on April 19 and running through May 5.  Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with curtain times at 7:30pm.  Tickets range from $12 (for preview performances on April 19 and 20) to  $16 for performances from April 21-May 5.  Tickets can be purchased online at The Magnetic Theatre’s website or at the door.

Doll is based on Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 controversial drama, A Doll’s House, which is one of the most famous plays in the world and its is widely regarded as one of the signal events of modern theatre.  In both Ibsen’s and Lilly’s versions, a young married woman, named Nora, struggles to both please her husband and maintain her own identity beyond being a wife and mother. Ibsen’s inspiration stemmed from an incident where a friend’s wife forged a check to repay a loan that she had taken out when her husband was ill.  When she was caught,  her husband demanded a divorce.  She was committed to an asylum and, later, returned to the marriage.  Ibsen felt guilty after declining to help the woman. In his play, A Doll’s House, he explored what it would be like for a woman in the 19th century, to walk away from such a marriage and stand on her own.

Lilly, who initially staged her adaptation of the play at Western Carolina University, where she is on the Department of Stage and Screen Faculty,  in 2014, has set Doll in Manhattan in the early 1960’s.

“When I set out to adapt A DOLL’S HOUSE, I was immediately struck at how little had actually changed in the nearly one-hundred years since Ibsen wrote his play – often referred to as the ‘birth of modern drama.’ And while, at its heart, it is an exploration of a marriage, it is also an extraordinarily taught mystery. Who knows ‘what’ and ‘when’ is at the core of the story. In moving it into contemporary times (1962) and NYC, I was free to add humour and much more sexual tension than in the original. And while Ibsen’s original play examined the patriarchy of his time, mine is nestled into the mid- century misogyny of America when we were on the cusp of a new feminist movement and the advent of the “Pill” was about to usher in the sexual revolution”, commented Lilly.  “As we still struggle today about #metoo and a woman’s role in the home, the workplace, politics, and even the theatre I am reminded of Gloria Steinem’s statement – “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.”

Taking place at the end of 1962, Doll zeroes in on the growing pressure on Nora (Mary Katherine O’Donnell), who has taken out a secret loan to cover expenses incurred when her husband David (Maximilian Koger) was critically ill.  Having secured the loan without her husband’s knowledge or permission from a duplicitous business associate (Scott Volshinin), Nora must now pay the loan in full or risk being exposed and ruining her husband’s reputation.   She turns to trusted friends Emily (Hannah Williams-Beaver) and Tommy (Daniel Henry) for help as the deadline looms near.

An Asheville Native, Brenda Lunsford Lilly is an accomplished actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, and producer.  She has written for many television series, including: “Big,” “Shades of L.A.,” “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” “L.A. Law,” “Christy,” “Walker: Texas Ranger,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Bobby’s World,” “Second Noah,” “Fame L.A.” and “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.” In 1999, she partnered with Hollis Rich to create and produce the critically acclaimed coming of age series, State of Grace. In 2002, Lilly and Rich received a Humanitas Award nomination for the pilot episode of the series. Additionally, the series received two Humanitas Award nominations, four Jewish Image Awards (including best 1/2 hour series), four Viewers Voice Awards (including best 1/2 hour series) and The Parents Television Council Award for best 1/2 hour series.

The Magnetic Theatre production of Doll features Mary Katherine O’Donnell as Nora and Maximilian Koger as her husband, David.   The cast also includes Daniel Henry, Hannah Williams-Beaver, Scott Voloshin, and Ivy Rose Volshinin in a production that is being directed by Andrew Gall, The Magnetic Theatre’s current Producing Artistic Director.    The production also features a scenic design by Terry Martin; lighting design by Jason Williams; sound design by Mary Zogzas; costume design by Victoria Smith.   The production is being stage managed by Christopher Kingsley.




The Magnetic Theatre presents the Asheville Premiere of  Brenda Lunsford Lilly’s Doll, directed by Andrew Gall, featuring; Mary Katherine O’Donnell, Maximilian Koger, Hannah Williams-Beaver; Daniel Henry; Scott Volshinin;  and Ivy Rose Volshinin;.   Scenic Design by Terry Martin; Lighting Design by Jason Williams; Sound Design by Mary Zogzas; Costume Design by Victoria Smith . Production stage manager is Christopher Kingsley. The Magnetic Theatre is located at 375 Depot Street in the River Arts District. Low-priced previews April 19 and  20. Opening night with complimentary Prosecco, April 21. The performance run continues Thursdays-Saturdays through May 5.  All performances at 7:30 PM. Previews $12. All other performances $16. $10 student rush tickets available 15 minutes before curtain with valid I.D. All admissions are subject to North Carolina Sales Tax.  Tickets and info: Info only: 828.239.9250.