“My intention in giving it this name was to indicate that Hedda as a personality is to be regarded rather as her father’s daughter than her husband’s wife.”-Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen, “the father of realism”, is the most performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. In the 19th century, his plays caused controversy, examining the conditions of life and depicting how people grappled with issues of immortality. One of his most famous and frequently produced plays, Hedda Gabler, is a tale of love and deceit. Hedda is defined by her own passions, rather than simply by being someone’s wife.
Treasure House Theater Company’s production, directed by Daniel Paul, presents a fresh take on Ibsen’s classic play. Hedda, played by Gabrielle Elù, seems to enjoy all the advantages of a well kept woman, yet she is bored. Hedda laments unabashedly, “It’s this tight little world that I have stumbled into…that’s what makes life so utterly miserable. So utterly ludicrous!” She’s annoyed with the social norms of society and disdainful of her husband, George, played by Jamie H. Jung. His obliviousness to her scorn makes for very interesting exchanges throughout the production.
When an old flame, Eilert Luvborg (Kire Tosevski), steps on the scene, the plot begins to thicken and the real deceit begins. The consequences of uncontrollable desire and passion become murderous and scandalous, yet in this rendition of the play there is something liberating about these acts being carried out by the hands of a woman. Of course, no good scandal is complete without the assistance of an unassuming friend, and in this case Judge Brack played with great craftiness and cunning by Stephen Christopher is the perfect instigator and accessory in the schemes that later unfold.
From the very beginning, the ambience transports the audience to another time and place. As classical music envelops the air, dimly lit lanterns and lighting lull the audience into a realm where horse-drawn carriages, butlers and maids with bonnets serve tea on vintage china. With meticulous care, the production, costume, prop and set designers create a late 19th century home. From vintage wooden furniture, family heirlooms, generational portraits hanging on the walls to flowing floor-length skirts, lace shawls and button-up boots, the costumes and setting seem like a page out of a Jane Austen novel.
While the work of the entire ensemble was intriguing to witness, newcomer Gabrielle Elù’s portrayal of Hedda Gabler is fascinating and gripping. From the commanding nature of her voice to her poised, statuesque frame, she seamlessly epitomizes a woman defined by her own passion. Kire Tosevki’s turn as Eilert Luvborg is enticing; his comfort with the verbose language, as well as his own Australian accent, heightens the undeniable chemistry between Ellert and Hedda.
Jamie H. Jung (George) displays an innocence in his admiration for Eilert, seemingly oblivious that this man is his wife’s lover. Berta (Bibi Lucas), the wobbling maid, serves as comedic relief at times, while Thea Elvsted (Catherine DeCioccio) and Aunt Julianna (Judy Fowler) add a nice genteel touch in juxtaposition to Hedda’s fiery nature.
It has been said that when this production received bad reviews when it premiered in 1891. The very thought of a woman pursuing her passions, stepping outside of her place in society, and being scandalous was, arguably, too much to comprehend for a male-dominated society. In the 21st century, the production of Hedda Gabler is well worth seeing, particularly for those who appreciate 19th-century literature.
The ArcLight Theatre, placed in a beautiful church with all of the trappings, is the perfect location for this production. Be prepared to stay at the show for 2 hrs and 15 minutes.
June 7-June 29, 2014
152 West 71st Street
Photos by Michael Imlay
Jamie H. Jung (as George Tesman) & Gabrielle Elù (as Hedda Gabler)
Kire Tosevski (as Eilert Luvborg) and Gabrielle Elù (as Hedda Gabler)
Stephen Christopher (as Judge Brack) & Gabrielle Elù (as Hedda Gabler)
Gabrielle Elù (as Hedda Gabler) & Jamie H. Jung (as George Tesman)