Is she Ibsen’s female Hamlet? An idealistic heroine fighting society? A victim of circumstances? A prototypical feminist? A manipulative villain? See her in action and decide for yourself. Director Richard Gant has given us a fine opportunity to draw our own conclusions.
Hedda Gabler was premiered in Germany to less than enthusiastic reviews. Twelve years later it became a Broadway sensation. It subsequently became a classic of nineteenth century realism. It is short on action and long on dialog. Hedda Gabler Tesman, totally captured by actress Kelli Harless, is the daughter of an impoverished General. She marries aspiring academic George Tesman (Kenn Burnett) for status and upper-class lifestyle, certainly not for love. Poor George is totally enthralled with her and is blinded by his own feelings. His seven/twenty-four research leaves him little time, after their wedding trip, to fulfill the normal husbandly duties.
Enter Eilert Lovborg (Chris DeArmond), who could be of interest to her. However, he soon is drawn as a serious academic rival to George. The plot doth thicken when we learn that Thea Elvsted (Courtney Potter) is working with Eilert on his “masterpiece,” the sequel to current book.
The play, though, is about Hedda Gabler, and Harless commands almost every scene. She creates Gabler’s every move, every manipulation, and terrible turn of events. Just watching Ms. Harless move, tense up, flash an insincere smile, create the fine touches on her character, and depict the possessed manipulator is exciting.
She is balanced by the delightfully bland, most of the time, portrayal of Burnett. His almost oblivious character, in his own world, is the perfect foil. DeArmond, whose character does like the fruit of the grape a bit too much, can fence with the lead. It is amusing to watch the paring that goes on between them. Potter’s Thea moves through a large spectrum of emotions. She is the one person that cannot be conned too long by Hedda. These four actors form the core of the story and the intricate drama.
They are supported by Caro Louise Aristei as Miss Julia Tesman, George’s Aunt, who sees through Hedda in a heart beat. Elisabeth Cerne plays servant Berta, who goes about her business quite perfunctorily. Frank Comstock is Judge Brack, a family friend, who knows secrets that are intolerable to Hedda.
Hedda Gabler has a number of subplots that challenge the audience. This production, while having some weak moments, offers us an opportunity to see this great playwright and his best.
Caro Aristei, Kenn Burnett, Elisabeth Cerne, Frank Comstock, Chris DeArmond, Kelli Harless, Courtney Potter
Producer Gretchen Pili, SM Mike Stevens, Asst SM Constance Boyd, Set Design Judy Conlon & Dick Grant, Landscape Mural Sabato Fiorello, Props Vesta Gleissner & Steve Kimes, Light Design Rick Ashcroft, Sound Design David Farlow, Tech Shannon Gant, SFX Rick Ashcroft & Brian Slothower, Costume Design Ann Savage, Hairstylist Guadalupe Marquez
Total Rating: Two and half Stars
Author: Henrik Ibsen, translated by Edmund Gosse & William Archer
Director: Richard Gant
Date Reviewed: March 1, 2008
Dates: Weekends thru March 22, 2008
Running Time: 143 minutes with a 15-minute intermission
Patio Playhouse Community Theatre
201 East Grand
Box Office Phone: 760 746-6669