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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
HEDDA GABLER
at American Airlines Theater

WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE
By SANDY MACDONALD

  Mary-Louise Parker/PH:Nigel Parry

Where other interpreters have made much of Hedda's hauteur (she is, after all, the daughter of a general), Mary-Louise Parker gets right down to the iconic anti-heroine's sheer perversity. Our first glimpse is reminiscent of Fuseli's The Nightmare , only the rear view: reflected in a grand horizontal mirror, Hedda is stretched out on a library couch, rump exposed. This initial stage picture, brilliantly set by director Ian Rickson , foretells all. Hedda is sleeping apart from her husband of six months. She has unmet desires. Her very fatigue portends the embarrassing condition - pregnancy - that a woman of her spirit (not to mention narcissism) might find intolerable.

In Christoher Shinn's fluid adaptation, the underpinnings of Ibsen's play float effortlessly to the surface, and Parker takes a playful approach - it's doubtful previous Hedda Gabler audiences ever spent so much time laughing.

This Hedda is gloriously, unabashedly malevolent. Parker sinks her teeth into Hedda's liberally distributed disses: it's easy to picture her as the mean girl at school. Her unbridled nastiness serves to play up the benightedness of her husband, Jorgen (Michael Cerveris manages to make this toadying bookworm a sympathetic figure). Jorgen's aunt (adorable Helen Carey ) is clearly on to her, but trying to make the best of a bad situation. If anything, Peter Stormare's Judge Brack is creepier than Hedda: his motives are as suspect, his method more insinuative. As renegade writer Ejlert Lovborg, Paul Sparks projects just the right bad-boy allure to suggest a lover one could neither domesticate nor easily forget.

If there's any flaw in the casting or characterization, it's Ana Reeder's bossy turn as Thea, Lovborg's devoted amanuensis. Hedda calls her "woolly-headed," but here she's not. From the start, Reeder plays Thea more like a truculent bureaucrat than a romance-addled acolyte. When Thea comes off crabbier than Hedda, something is seriously amiss.

No matter - you'll have a hard time taking your eyes off Parker's glower. Is an evening of Ibsen ever meant to be fun? Call it a guilty pleasure - and partake.

 


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