Sunday, January 18, 2009
Lady in Red
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Saw Hedda Gabler on Friday at the Roundabout Theatre. The show has excellent costume and set design, and strong leads. It is, purposely, a little anti-climactic, and it was hard for theatregoers to respond as they exited the theatre. The first thing that came to me was this: Ana Reeder did an especially nice job of weeping half the show without defining herself as That Woman Who Cries All The Time; I was impressed she could show so much variety within a restricting role like that of Mrs. Thea Elvstead. She is also (arguably) the only innocent character in the show, and the one your heart goes out to in the end. This is unusual for a tragedy - one would expect the worst things to happen to good people; in Ibsen, though, the worst people get the most stage time. (You can read about the cast here.)
I was least fond of Paul Sparks as Ejlert Lovberg - his character was so built up before he was introduced, I wish he had lived up to the hype. His presence was not commanding enough to demand more attention than the other characters.
Mary Louise Parker is aloof and rather excellent. I initially thought her choice to present Hedda as so far gone - so reprehensible - from the beginning of the show that it took away from the ending. However, after reading today's review in The New York Times, I think it was Ibsen's choice, not hers. Hedda is a twisted and difficult woman, though she comes from certain circumstances that might have been sympathetic (she chooses a "safe" marriage over an exciting one, she feels trapped in her relationship, etc.) but our impression of her in the opening scene is that she's entirely materialistic and heartless. Helen Carey comes in as Miss Juliane Tesman, all bubbly and warm, and Hedda criticizes her hat, criticizes the house Miss Tesman paid for (though it is quite a financial stretch for the old lady), and manages to make Miss Tesman feel unwelcome in the new home.
It may have just been Friday's performance, but I wish she'd made more of her last line in the show. There are these great doors she gets to close, and she is in an absolutely beautiful dress (pictured above) that makes you want her to stand with her back to the audience the whole second act so you can look at it. But she does a nice job of blending a classical mood with an approachable, more modern tone - I enjoyed her performance.
The Times touched on two funny contemporary things that came to my mind as well: Sex and the City and Anne Hathaway. Michael Cervaris plays Jorgen Tesman, a modern Harry from Sex and the City. He is the kind, understanding, slightly goofy husband who dotes on his beautiful wife. They're both even bald. This is the perfect husband for a woman so selfish as Hedda - it's just a shame we have to watch him caught with such an awful woman (Charlotte is at least a little more sympathetic). The reason I thought of Anne Hathaway is that a role like Hedda would be marvelous for her career; this part is designed for beautiful women who always have to play the likeable leading lady. What a marvelous opportunity for Mary Louise Parker!
Though I would have liked to see a bit more of a character arc from Hedda, it was a polished production. Again, the tall windows, the long red dress with the V in the back, the revolvers, the "sunrise" - all of the visual elements were gorgeous. If you get the opportunity, it's worth your time.