Writers Theatre, that little jewel in the North Shore’s “downtown” Glencoe, just keeps bringing us quality theater, show after show, year after year. Some new works, some musicals and of greatest importance, classic plays, such as their current production, Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler”, a story about a woman that was far ahead of her times. Smoothly directed by Kimberly Senior, this 2 hour and 40 minutes of theater never drags and never seems to bore. There is an old saying that “time flies when you are having fun” and indeed, while the outcome of this story is not one of fun, the trip to its end fits that bill of fare.
The story of “Hedda Gabler” ( with translation by Nicholas Rudall) is one of a woman who is different than those around her. We love her and we hate her. We envy her and despise her. Hedda is a very deep character, far ahead of her times and to portray her to the fullest , as Ibsen wrote her, Writers has brought to the stage Kate Fry. A perfect choice for the role. Ms Fry is delightful to watch on any stage, but when she works in the intimate Writers, I find her even more captivating as we can see her eyes which are very expressive. I must classify her as one of Chicago’s finest actresses.
The story opens with Hedda and her new husband, Jergen ( deftly handled by Sean Fortunato) arriving from their honeymoon and moving into a home that Hedda had expressed desire over. It is a lovely home ( designed by Jack Magaw) that truly feels real. The action takes place ( all three acts/two intermissions) in this wonderful drawing room as we meet Jergen’s Aunt Julie (a delightful portrayal by Barbara Figgins) , who has raised Jergen and only wants him to be happy. Hedda does not fit into the family, nor does she desire to.
There are several underlying stories that bring all of our characters together. Other men of the town ( in fact, it could be said, most men) had a “thing” for Hedda and two of these men enter the picture of this epic story. Judge Brack ( the highly energetic Scott Parkinson) who has been handling the finances for the newlyweds,is one of these men and the other is Eilert Lovborg ( Mark L Montgomery). Lovborg is a writer as is Jergen, but he is a published writer while Jergen is just starting while waiting for a professorship. It turns out that one of Jergens earlier “loves” Thea Elvsted ( the delightful Chaon Cross) is now entangles with Lovberg, despite being married to her former employer.
While this may seem a bit complicated, it is not. Under Senior’s direction, each of these little stories is told in a very understandable way. The story is about Hedda’s reach for power in a world where women do not get power. It is about love, in many ways- how it drives us to do things that we would not do in other circumstances and it is about acting on impulse instead of thinking things through to a final end., and Ms Fry conveys this perfectly.
There are indeed, many little stories that unfold over these three acts, yet what we find is a woman who appears to be selfish in nature and uses her power over men to its fullest capacity. We know that she is more than she seems and that she knows her power over the men who enter her life, but in the end we begin to feel differently about Hedda and her actions. The ending is one that will shock and alarm you, so I will not continue with bringing any more story line to you. I will tell you that I have not seen a production of this classic for many ( and I mean many) years, and I for one wish to thank Writers for adding this tasty morsel to their season. If you have seen “Hedda” before, you will love this rendition. If you have never seen this play, you owe it to yourself to bear witness to a classical master work of theater with a cast that is divine in every way.
The technical side of this production is also one of perfection with lighting by Christine A. Binder, original music and sound by Christopher Kriz, costumes by Rachel Laritz and wonderful props by Julie Eberhardt. The other character in the production, Berte, the maid, is played by Kathleen Ruhl who indeed proves the old adage, there are no small parts.While Berte does not add a lot to the story, she is a part of it and brings out the social aspect of Hedda’s mindset.
“Hedda Gabler” will continue at Writers Theatre, located at 325 Tudor Court through March 16th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 4 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 5 p.m.
Selected Wednesdays 2 p.m. check with theater)
Tickets range from $35 and can be purchased at the box office, around the corner at 376 Park Avenue, by phone at 847-242-6000 or online at www.writerstheatre.org where you can also get directions, train info ( the train from the city stops a block away). There is plenty of free parking in the area as well.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, fo to Review Round-up and click at “hedda Gabler”.