Performance Review: “Hedda Gabler”

Hedda Gabler fights her lesbian desires ... Not your daddy's Ibsen!

Hedda Gabler
Mauckingbird Theatre Company
By Henrik Ibsen
A new adaptation by Caroline Kava
Directed by Peter Reynolds
Featuring: Cheryl Williams, Kristen O’Rourke, Dito van Reigersberg, Jennie Eisenhower, Jessica DalCanton, Matthew Lorenz, Sarah Sanford.

10 Words or Less … Hedda Gabler fights her lesbian desires…Not your daddy’s Ibsen!

Strengths … Caroline Kava’s carefully crafted adaptation of this well-loved Ibsen play reinvigorates the story of the troubled Hedda Gabler, provocatively weaving lesbian desire into the plot. She does so by switiching the gender, if not the character name, of Eilert Lovborg from a man to a women. Lovborg is the intellectual rival of Hedda’s husband and the secret desire of Hedda herself. Kava’s adaptation is sensitive to the original text while revitalizing the inherent tensions in this divided story, which juxtaposes personal passion with social propriety. The result of this enterprise is an exciting and fresh show enfused with tension and fervor. Rather than being contrived or obvious, this adaptation, and Mauckingbird’s wonderfully hazardous production, has recharged this electric tale of a tortured women and her own self-destructive tendencies.

Weaknesses … While most of the cast delights — most notably Sarah Sanford as Miss Eilert Lovborg, Dito van Reigersberg as the naïve husband of the cunning Hedda, and Jennie Eisenhower as Hedda — Matthew Lorenz as Judge Brack is rather stiff and failed to settle into the character with the stylized naturalism required for Ibsen and skillfully achieved by the balance of the actors.

Verdict … Mauckingbird is a theatre company worth heading out for on a cold winter evening. While their focus is on producing gay-themed productions through the reworking of classical texts, they do so by simply staging top-notch productions. Marie Anne Chiment’s costume design for Hedda is just beautiful, and Cory Palmer’s set is efficient and elegant in an unforgivingly small space. The director, Peter Reynolds, folds the politics of gender into this handsome world of design, with a flare for the dramatically elegant that avoids the in-your-face nature of much drama that is issue based. By its clever twist in concept, this production is both playful and dangerous, continually engaging and tantalizingly provocative.

Through January 29 at the Adrienne Theatre’s Second Stage, 2030 Sansom Street. Tickets $15-$20.