"Hedda Gabler" Brings New Meaning to Beauty
This weekend I had the great pleasure of watching the final show of this year’s Hawaii Shakespeare Festival, Hedda Gabler. As I am sure you can see, this is not a part of Shakespeare’s great works but rather Henrik Ibsen’s. This was my first time seeing this play actually produced and it was truly a different experience! Henrik Ibsen is well known for his stories of women suffering. Whether it be in a loveless marriage, or starting to feel the effects of mental disorders and neuroses. Looking throughout Ibsen’s work you can see how Psychology, though in its embryonic stages at the time, and the work of Sigmund Freud and others affected his work. It is believed that Hedda Gabler herself is the first fully fledged neurotic female character in literature, I can really see that.
The story of Hedda Gabler begins on an early morning in the 1890s with the entrance of Aunt Julia, and their family servant Berte. They are looking for Aunt Julia’s newly married nephew George Tesman and his bride Hedda. Aunt Julia is trying to ask the incredibly nerdy Tesman if Hedda is expecting and he is completely clueless, he instead thinks she is talking about his expected professorship at a university. After Aunt Julia leaves it is clear that Hedda is unhappy despite having been on a wedding tour for the last few months. Throughout the day they are visited by Judge Brack, a family friend, as well as former competitor of George and former Admirer of Hedda and known party animal, Eilert Loveborg. Loveborg has recently ceased his rowdy ways and released a book that has taken the nation by storm, he comes to visit and shares that he is already working on a sequel and shows them the manuscript he and Thea, a woman he worked for as a tutor, have completed. This discovery starts the whirlwind of a story of Hedda Gabler and her journey to find something beautiful out of life.
When you walk in to the ARTS at Mark’s Garage theatre space, it is very cool and calm. The stage is in thrust with seating on three sides. The set design by Erick West is very clever. You see the set up in what appears to be a drawing room/sitting area with books on every surface, a door frame showing a room separation and what appears to be a second lounge with a piano and a couple chairs. This really showed the two rooms well! I never doubted the separation of space.
Jamie Bradner brings something special to Hedda Tesman, formerly Gabler, and you start to see the psychopathy of the character and how she works to manipulate others to do her will and where she nearly snaps because someone refuses. Jason Kanda brings a little light and whimsy to the story with his delightfully nerdy tendencies and his desire to please the women in his life. Betty Burdick’s Aunt Julia is delightfully maternal and sweet, I saw so much of my own Aunties in here especially with the questions about “expectations!” Burdick’s Aunt Julia is complemented well with Olivia Barros’s Berte. Berte is clearly horrified to be in George and Hedda’s home, she clearly fears her new mistress. Reb Beau Allen brings all the delightful facets of a man with power to Judge Brack. I truly enjoyed watching Hedda’s old friend show his true colors. Kirstyn Trombetta brought a beautifully sweet and devoted air to Thea, Hedda’s former school mate and wife of a local Sheriff, she is very smart and loves to help Loveborg, played by Antonio Anagaran, at his work. Anagaran brings a calm to the scene and a quiet fury even at Loveborg’s darkest moments.
Lighting by Cora Yamagata was simple, yet it enhanced the story beautifully. The space was not brightly lit and gave the feeling of tension with moments of strong color that helped bring you into the mind of Hedda.
Carlynn Wolfe did a masterful job with the costuming this period show with rich color and wonderful fabrics and clothing that can even looked at from less than a foot away can just be admired.
Hair, wigs, and makeup were done, wonderfully, by Mia Yoshimoto, especially Burdick’s wig.
Director Harry Wong III really guided the cast to such a strong naturalism that you feel as if you are looking through the walls of someone’s house and experiencing a part of their lives rather than a more show-y "presentational" style.
This play is full of great choices by cast, design team, and director that truly brings the audience into the world of Hedda Tesmen. Overall, I have very few critiques of the show, there was occasional accent dropping or switching and a moment that I was made curious about as a storyteller.
There is one week left of Hedda Gabler and I genuinely think it is a piece of theatre that shouldn’t be missed. There is excellent work being done here and it should be seen! Congratulations on an amazing opening! Running August 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19, this is it’s final weekend. Every performance is at 7:30pm, with Sunday running at 3:30pm. Buy tickets online at https://hsfhedda.brownpapertickets.com/. Seating is limited!