Reviewed By Nicholas Linnehan
What is power? More interestingly, why are we so drawn to it, like a moth to flame? Interestingly, Ibsen’s work about a woman obsessed with controlling others is still compelling to watch, making it the timeless classic that it is. IRT Theater presents Wandering Dark Theater Company’s production of Hedda (Gabler), which fills the room with dramatic tension that has the audience hooked from the start.
Like most masterpieces, Ibsen’s play features deeply layered characters with complex relationships to one another. Hedda Gabler has just returned from her honeymoon to George Tesman. However, it is clear that Hedda didn’t marry George for love, but still longs for a former lover, who just happens to be George’s rival, Eilert Lovborg. But does Hedda want Lovborg’s love or to simply dominate him? Enter Thea Elvsted, distraught over Lovborg, as she’s having an affair with this successful writer. Thea and Hedda were bitter schoolmates. In the background is Judge Brack who lusts after Hedda and is seeking his own way in to Hedda’s bed. Every scene is a game of chess; a battle of wits and wills for power over one another.
The hard thing about works like this is the language. It can be so dense and heightened that it can hard to relate to. But this cast does a good job making it feel contemporary and relevant to today. Valerie Redd, is our leading lady as Hedda. Redd has so much inner life that drives her throughout the play, We hang on her every word. Often, it is what she doesn’t say that is the most interesting. Terence MacSweeny makes for an excellent Judge Brack. He is menacing and his desire for Hedda is palpable. There is a great seductive quality about him that is intriguing to watch. Redd and MacSweeny are electric together. George Tesman, played by the adorable Kyle Schaefer provides great contrast to the other scheming characters. He is like a young puppy, earnest, honest, and sincere. Clearly from a different world of his brooding comrades. He brings light and energy into this dark themed play.
As much as I liked the cast, I am indifferent about the choreographed scenes by Brad Landers. The symbolism and foreshadowing found in the opening number are delightful and make for a great entry point, but when the three men do a sequence in the middle of the play it seems jarring and disconnected from the rest of the story. This moment takes us out of the world that has been so beautifully created. Jason Frey’s costumes are stunning and help create the setting perfectly.
Unfortunately the show played its last performance, but it was great to see IRT bring back a classic and show us why it is deemed such a great play by many. Though Ibsen wrote it long ago, it captures the darkness of the human condition that plagues us all.
Hedda (Gabler) played through October 9th, 2016 at IRT Theater 154 Christopher St.