Monday, January 26, 2009

Hedda Gabler (The SOB Review)

Hedda Gabler (The SOB Review) - Roundabout Theatre Company, American Airlines Theatre, New York, New York

** (out of ****)

You want to know the craziest thing about the latest revival of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler as directed by Ian Rickson?

Surpringly, it’s not the wide, glassy-eyed deer in the headlights portrayal of the eponymous character by Mary-Louise Parker, which, by the way, seems more like an extremely strung out page taken from her long-running Showtime hit “Weeds.” In fact, because Hildegard Bechtler's lackluster set design includes a sparsely-appointed room, Parker continually appears desperately in search of more scenery to chew.

Nor is it that sad irony of this most vain mistress of seduction appearing to be more of a vanity project for the gifted Parker, especially given the sheer number of New York revivals of Hedda Gabler staged over the past 15 years.

No, the craziest thing about this Hedda Gabler is that the only fate worse than a serious misfire of squandered talent and classic script on the stage is Rickson’s tragically self-inflicted shot that comes close to fatally undermining this great work. While Christopher Shinn’s new adaptation must bear some of the responsibility, it’s the director who can’t quite dodge his own bullet.

Indeed, it is Rickson’s second Broadway outing in a row in which a leading character is done in by acute miscalculations on the part of both director and actor alike. Just as his revival of The Seagull was thrown seriously off kilter by the egregiously miscast Peter Sarsgaard as Trigorin -- a role fundamentally demanding a halfway decent striking man with at least some modicum of charm-- so, too, is this Hedda Gabler so certifiably imbalanced that you can’t understand why any man would find her attractive.

There’s no pretense of nuance in Parker’s possessed performance. Because of that, not even the usually dependable Michael Cerveris as her husband, a mousy Jorgen Tesman, can salvage this production. While the rest of the ensemble is capable, only Ana Reeder as Thea Elvsted completely acquits herself.

If you're waiting for the right time to see Hedda Gabler, you'll have to wait a little longer.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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