The celebrated Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen may have been writing in the latter years of the 19th century, but his message speaks loudly to several of the most incendiary controversies of today.
Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler,” like the better known “A Doll’s House,” contains one of the most powerful roles ever in the person of Hedda. Mercer University Theatre produced this classic of the “theater of ideas” just last season in the intimate Center for the Arts, so when the HD telecast arrives at the Douglass Theatre in the NT Live series, it will be an entirely different experience. If you’re a lover of serious theater and missed the Mercer production, I urge you to get to the Douglass for the National Theatre production.
Although Ibsen is the author of the NT version, the actual script is said to be a new version by Patrick Marber. The director is Ivo van Hove (who directed NT Live’s “A View from the Bridge”), and he has eschewed the ponderous 19th century garb for the informality of modern dress (for example, Hedda in her slip). Taken together, the changes are said to produce “fresh eyes” for the audience.
The story, briefly, shows us Hedda returning from her honeymoon, married to the academic Tesman, a man for whom she seeming has little affection. His rival, who has overcome his drinking problem and produced a magnum opus, could inadvertently overturn Tesman’s future prospects.
Hedda trapped in a loveless marriage, a plot fueled by alcohol, firearms and extortion — they all combine to produce a tale of a woman in a changing world. But the play is also a character study, for Hedda is not only unhappy with her life, she is bent on the destruction of others. While the critics debate the merits of several of the changes to this contemporary production, there is seemingly universal agreement that Ruth Wilson’s portrayal of Hedda is “phenomenal.”
We can see for ourselves on Sunday at the Douglass, one of only two sites in Georgia to broadcast the NT Live production.
When: 3 p.m. March 19
Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Cost: $20 adults; $15 seniors and students