Thursday, May 25, 2006

SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #3 – Hedda Gabler (Brooklyn Academy of Music – Harvey Theatre, New York, NY)

SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #3 – Hedda Gabler (Brooklyn Academy of Music – Harvey Theatre, New York, NY)

The absolute best production I saw in New York over the past year wasn’t on Broadway or Off-Broadway, but instead at the very relevant Brooklyn Academy of Music. Hedda Gabler provided an excellent cast in a superb adaptation by Andrew Upton of the Henrik Ibsen classic.

While some critics quibbled with Robyn Nevin’s direction and Upton's scripts -- suggesting they had taken too many liberties with the play -- I was left pondering where the outrage was over the endless parade of adaptations of William Shakespeare and Jane Austen masterpieces. What about the countless musical theatre adaptations of old movies? Much ado about nothing, and it truly missed the central fact that this Sydney Theatre Company production defiantly stood on its own and made for brilliant -- and yes, entertaining -- theatre.

In the troubled and tragic title role, the exquisite Cate Blanchett commanded the stage with a forceful range of exhilarating emotions going from luminescent to fiery. While Julia Roberts is currently the hottest ticket on Broadway, movie star gazers would have been wise a couple months ago to hop on the number 2 train from Manhattan to Brooklyn where the year’s most exceptional acting was in full bloom.

This adaptation commenced with Hedda pondering her self-inflicted boredom from her ill-conceived marriage, brooding at marrying beneath her aristocratic position. Yet the play quickly picked up a head of steam that didn’t quit until the final gunshot. Blanchett was at her wicked best when rolling over Justine Clarke’s Thea for the affections of Ejlert (poignantly portrayed by Aden Young) or when going head-to-head with Hugo Weaving -- whose riveting portrayal of Judge Brack proved the only character capable of seeing through, yet aiding, Hedda’s manipulative mayhem.

Nevin’s direction succeeded in making this Hedda Gabler one of the most captivating theatrical journeys I’ve ever experienced, and that’s why it ranks #3 on my SOB Best of the 2005-06 Theatrical Season list.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Related Stories:
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #1 - Theater Of The New Ear (Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA) (May 30, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #2 – Guys And Dolls (Piccadilly Theatre, London, UK) (May 26, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #4 – A Blameless Life (Steppenwolf Garage, Chicago, IL) (May 24, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #5 – Reeling (The Children’s Theatre Company, Minneapolis, MN) (May 23, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #6 – “MASTER HAROLD”…And The Boys (Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL) (May 21, 2006)
SOB’s Best of 2005-06: #7 – Love Song (Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL) (May 19, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #8 - Billy Elliot The Musical (Victoria Palace Theatre, London, UK) (May 18, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #9 - The Well-Appointed Room (Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago, IL) (May 17, 2006)
SOB's Best of 2005-06: #10 - Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Eugene O'Neill Theatre, New York, NY) (May 15, 2006)
The SOB Five "Worst" of 2005-06 (May 12, 2006)
SOB's Best and Worst of 2005-06 Theatre Season (May 12, 2006)


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