Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Hedda Gabler"

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entire contents copyright 2010 by Tony Annicone

"Hedda Gabler"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of Providence College Theatre's season is Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler". It was first published in 1890 and premiered in Germany in 1891 to negative reviews but has subsequently gained recognition as a classic of realism, nineteenth century theatre and world drama. A 1902 production was a major sensation on Broadway starring Minnie Fiske. The character of Hedda is considered by some critics as one of the great dramatic roles in theatre, the ''female Hamlet," and some portrayals have been very controversial. Depending on the interpretation, Hedda may be portrayed as an idealistic heroine fighting society, a victim of circumstance, a prototypical feminist, or a manipulative villain. The show put society's secrets on display in a way that scandalized some audiences and profoundly moved others. In a mastery of psychological insight, Ibsen creates Hedda, a woman who is complex and yet cannot take charge of her own life. Director Mary Farrell sets this production in the 1950's, choosing a time in history when women's roles in home and family were shifting, and society was headed for change, mirroring the original era of Ibesn, but updating it to a time period of our own recent past. Director Farrell chooses 7 student performers to play these roles and infuses them with her insightful direction to reach their goals.

Mary has a giant portrait of the general looming over the set. is aided in her task by set designer Kathryn Kawecki (the two story set looks the Brady Bunch set) and costume designer Lisa Batt-Parente (authentic 1950's costumes). Terrific lighting by Tim Cryan with the manuscript burning scene as the most impressive with the intense red light of the fire on Hedda's face. Hedda, a daughter of an aristocratic General,has just returned home from her honeymoon with George Tesman, an aspiring academic. The reappearance of Tesman's academic rival, Eilert Loevborg, throws their lives into disarray The critical success of his recently published work turns Loevborg into a competitor for a professorship. Hedda provokes Loevborg to return to drinking at a party when Tesman returns home from the party and reveals he found Loevborg's manuscript. Instead of telling him that they have it, Hedda encourages him to commit suicide by giving him a pistol. When news comes that he has indeed killed himself, Tesman and Mrs. Thea Elvsted, Hedda's rival, are determined to get to the bottom of the matter. Judge Brack, a sinister figure knows where the pistol came from and threatens Hedda's happiness. The show then reaches a shocking conclusion. Samantha Brilhante is stunning as Hedda. She shows off her strong acting ability in this demanding role. Hedda controls her husband's life, demanding this opulent home. She resents his aunts influence in his life and when Loevborg returns to town wants to control his destiny, because she fears for her husband's position. Samantha gives this character many layers and plays her on many levels. Hedda shoots a cat at the start of the second act, foreshadowing the events that follow showing the significance of the pistol.

Brendan Hickey is marvelous as the hen pecked, unsuspecting George. He captures the naivete of the character caught in this woman's web. Cat McDonnell wearing a long blond wig plays Hedda's schoolmate, Thea who has left her husband for Loevborg who she is in love with and has also helped him write his manuscript. She really shines in the fourth act where she can't comprehend that someone's death is beautiful as well as being upset by the loss of the manuscript. Ted Boyce-Smith is terrific as the smarmy judge who keeps appearing on the scene. He is reminiscent of Cary Grant in his heyday. Kevin Lynch is wonderful as the tortured Loevborg who has an unrequited love for Hedda. He has a gut wrenching scene in the third act when he describes the loss of his manuscript being comparable to the loss of a child. Rounding out this cast is Erin Fusco as George's doting aunt and Grace Curley as Berta, the maid. So for a fresh look at a classic show, be sure to catch "Hedda Gabler" at Providence College.

"Hedda Gabler" (29 October - 7 November)
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE
@ Angell Blackfriars Theatre, Smith Center for Thwe Arts, River Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401)865-2218

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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