North Coast Rep Presents the World Premiere Translation of Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler”
He is called the Father of Realism and one of the founders of Modernism in theatre. His cycle of 12 prose plays, first appearing with “Pillars of Society” in 1877, pushed him to the top of the theatrical world of the 19th century. He is Norway’s Henrik Ibsen. As an English Literature major in college I remember reading “A Doll’s House” and “Enemy of the People”. Their subject matter caused both a sensation and upset the conventionality of the theatre world. The latest theatrical endeavor at the North Coast Rep in Solana Beach is a freshly translated script by Anne-Charlotte Harvey of one of the 12 prose plays,
“Hedda Gabler”, first appearing in 1890.
During the time period Ibsen’s work appeared, many of his plays were considered scandalous as they questioned the strict morals of family life and propriety and presented on stage a look into the realities of the “real world”. “A Doll’s House”, first appearing in 1879, questioned the norms of marriage and was the most performed play by the early 20th century. “Hedda Gabler” would follow years later with the story of a woman marrying for power and prestige, a woman who loved another and felt trapped in her marriage, a woman who wanted to control the emotions of others and manipulate those around her. If Ibsen were alive today he would either be producing successful dramatic pieces for the stage or a screen writer for TV shows like “Mistresses” or ones like “Desperate Housewives”. His female characters are powerful, seductive, women of mystery, conniving and many of the personalities you have a hard time liking as people.
Long time North Coast Rep Director David Ellenstein has done a tremendous job of assembling and directing a veteran cast, many North Coast Rep veterans, to portray the array of people central to Hedda Gabler’s life. Mhari Sandoval, as Hedda Gabler, is appearing in her third North Coast Rep play. She presents the perfect woman trapped in a loveless marriage, but a woman trying in her own ways to survive and escape her situation. Her manipulations will not end well for several of the people in her life, including herself. Bruce Turk, as Hedda’s husband Jorgen Tesman, is convincing as a man blinded by his love of Hedda, seeking prestige which is eluding him, and naïve of what is going on around him in many respects. He wants to be a successful writer and a professor, but everything seems to escape him. He has a clinging relationship to his Aunts, one we meet in the play. Turk is a Craig Noel Award winner for Best Actor and has appeared in numerous productions around the county as well as several television shows.
Photography by Aaron Rumley
The unusual love relationships Hedda has had during her life brings an old flame back into the picture, Eilert Lovborg, played by veteran actor Richard Baird. Her relationship with Eilert is questionable at best as it seems a shooting was part of their earlier romance. Eilert is also a recovering alcoholic who Hedda manipulates into drinking again, which will prove Eilert’s downfall. His success as a writer is a point of jealousy for Hedda’s husband, Jorgen. Richard Baird most recently appeared at North Coast with a tremendous performance in “Way Downriver; William Faulkner’s ‘Old Man’” and he is the founding Artistic Director of New Fortune Theatre Company. As complexity fills the stage, Mrs. Elvsted, played by Mel House, adds more intrigue as a woman, also married, willing to give up everything, as she is also in love with Eilert, but Eilert considers her more of a friend. Ms. House is making her debut at North Coast Rep. and plays the perfect innocent. A woman who just doesn’t see what Hedda is up to and willing to do to achieve her goals. And overseeing all of this is Judge Brack, played by veteran actor Ray Chambers. Judge Brack seems to be the only one aware of what Hedda is up to, what Mrs. Elvsted and Eilert are up against and what obstacles are in Jorgen’s way for success. But the good Judge does not do much to assist any one, instead willing to do what is good for only for the Judge. He is extremely concerned that the men join him for a night of smoking cigars, drinking and carrying on. Mr. Chambers is making his return appearance at North Coast having last performed at the theatre in 1985. He has performed across the country and is the Head of Acting at the Old Globe/University of San Diego, Shiley Graduate Theatre. Also appearing on stage as the maid Berte is Rhona Gold who is making a return to the North Coast Rep stage and as Aunt Julia, Cristina Soria, also a North Coast Rep veteran and who was in the successful Cygnet Theatre play, “When the Rain Stops Falling”. If all of this sounds complicated and intertwined, welcome to the world of Ibsen’s realism.
Hedda is a little left of normal as a person. You wonder what she is trying to do next throughout the play. She has a warped sense of beauty and appearance, referring to seeing Eilert with vine leaves on his head and love for her pistols. She burns a manuscript Eilert has written, a man she supposedly once loved. She is a difficult woman to understand and you are not quite sure of her motives.
Classic theatre at its best is on stage at North Coast Rep. The amazing cast does a wonderful job in portraying an unusual array of characters in a twisted story line and in interpreting the translated text in a new way. The play runs through June 26th and tickets can be obtained by calling 858-481-1055 or go to www.northcoastrep.org. Next up for North Coast Rep will be the musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” beginning on July 13th.