note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
“Hedda Gabler” currently at the Gamm Theatre adapted by artistic director Tony Estrella is simply riveting, rich in underlying emotional currents and devastating intensity, propelled by superb acting and deft directing.
The classic Ibsen play tells the tale of Hedda Gabler, the daughter of an aristocratic general who finds herself trapped and bored in married life even though she is a newly wed. These are sharply drawn characters that are superbly acted and skillfully directed by Estrella. There is seething intensity here, underlying currents of deceit and disappointment that surge to the surface with dire consequences. All of which makes for compelling and relentless theatre. The characters are sharply drawn and very distinct.
Marianna Bassham is Hedda, now Mrs. Tesman, ne Gabler, daughter of the imperious general. Hedda is deeply troubled and incredibly bored by her life and in particular her husband. She has a dark streak that runs deep and constant. She was a bit wild before she got married and at times seems to long for that life again, as if her choice for prudence has becomes an overwhelming burden which drags her down daily, saps the life out of her. Her idea of fun and games is to fire a pistol at people, one not loaded with blanks. It is a riveting performance, rich in darkness, boredom and borderline madness.
Joe Short is her somewhat naïve and often childlike husband George, who got his degree while studying on their honeymoon He is clueless and nearly painfully innocent and without a hint about life or his wife. He has a childish enthusiasm, a really kind of golly gee effect which he struggles to keep in check. He is like a child who just met his favorite movie star or made the little league team in spite of it all. Short delivers a rich performance of a childish and childlike man who is unaware of so many things in particularly regarding his wife’s darker side.
Alexander Platt is the tortured and fragile Eilert Lovborg, a brilliant writer who is tortured by relentless drinking and alcoholism which disintegrates his talent and his life reducing him to dire straits and failure personally and professionally. Yet Lovborg has manages to get on the wagon and stop drinking, get his life together again with the publication of a new book which is getting wide acclaim and interest. It is a tortured performance rich in inner battles and oozing a sense of fatal weakness and disaster.
Jim O’Brien is Judge Brock, longtime friend of the family who appears to be proper, but has his darker side as well. It is one of O’Brien’s best performances, rich and full of depth.
Marya Lowry is George’s doting aunt Juliana who holds her nephew in high regards despite his meager accomplishments. She is the epitome of the loving aunt, who adores her nephew and does not see his failings and flaws, only delights in his successes.
Karen Carpentier is Thea the sheriff’s wife and serves as Lovberg’s muse and helps him with his research and his writing, takes care of him and adores him. IT is a sincere and touching performance, rich and deep.
Katie Travers is the maid, Berta, longtime employee of Aunt Julie and now, not too happily working for her nephew and his wife whom she is not too fond. She adds some fine comic touches to the role.
Tony Estrella directs with flair and finesse, evoking the best out of this superb cast. His adaptation is vivid and dense, full of depth and varied.
Scenic artist Cappie Cappizano delivers a set that is loaded with beams cross beams, a house under construction and transparent, exposing it structural flaws and emotional holes. There are a couple of times when it interferes with the lighting.
This is an excellent production rich and varied with a strong and talented cast that is sure to please.
“Hedda Gabler” at the Gamm Theatre Oct.23 – Nov 30 172 Exchange St., Pawtucket. Tickets are $36-$45. Call (401) 723-4266, or visit gammtheatre.org.