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Hedda Gabler at Antaeus

May 22, 2016

Elizabeth-Robins_Hedda-Gabler_1891We’d forgotten that Henrik Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler had its world premiere in 1891; we don’t think of it as being a vintage work. And perhaps that’s part of Ibsen’s genius, having written plays such as A Doll’s House that confronted mores of the day with Nora, the main character, struggling with her traditional roll as mother and wife, and ultimately leaving her family at the end of the play. Remember, it was 1879 when A Doll’s House was first produced.

By the time Ibsen wrote Hedda Gabler, he was famous and controversial. And Hedda was perhaps his most controversial character.

A comment written at the time of the play’s release, from the Saturday Review:
We do not mean to say that there are not, unhappily, Hedda Gablers and George Tesmans in ‘real life’. There are; but when we meet them we take the greatest pains to get out of their way, and why should they be endured on the stage? (Academic.Brooklyn.CUNY.edu)

A more admiring critique from the London Sunday Times:
Now, to us Hedda Gabler appears a wonderful work of art, one that must produce a profound impression upon those who will accustom themselves to regard a stage-play from the point of view of real, living character in actual contact with the facts and sensations and possibilities of human experience, instead of gauging it by the conventional standard of playmaking, or the superficial observation of ordinary social intercourse. Ibsen has a way of going to the root of the matter, and exposing the skeleton in the cupboard, which is certainly not always a pleasant sight. But life, with its infinite subtleties and inconsistencies, is always interesting, and Ibsen shows the wonder and the pity of it, while perhaps he only infers its loveliness by contrast. But therein he proves himself a master artist, for his point of view is definite, and the impression he produces is complete and final. In Hedda Gabler he gives us a typical tragedy of modern life, and in the strange, sensitive, selfish heroine, he presents one of the most wonderful and subtle conceptions of woman in the whole range of dramatic literature. (Academic.Brooklyn.CUNY.edu)

Antaeus Theatre Company presents Hedda Gabler with opening night on June 2. Steven Robman directs this Andrew Upton version of Ibsen’s classic play. Variety describes Upton’s adaptation as stripped back and “subtly contemporizing the text.”

 

Nike Doukas, one of the two actors playing Hedda Gabler, the other being Jaimi Paige

Nike Doukas, one of the two actors playing Hedda Gabler, the other being Jaimi Paige

 

 

Antaeus’ Hedda Gabler
Preview: Thursday, May 26th-Wednesday, June 1st
Run: Thursday, June 2nd-Sunday, July 17th, times vary
Antaeus Theatre Co., 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood 91601
Tickets: $15, preview; $30-$34, regular run
View availability and purchase tickets here
For all details, visit Antaeus.org/shows/hedda

 

Jaime Paige

Jaime Paige

 

Antaeus Theatre Company has now broken ground on its new Glendale home.

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Photo, top right: Elizabeth Robins (1862-1952) as Hedda Gabler (photogravure, detail). A strong defender of Ibsen’s plays, Elizabeth Robins (born in Louisville, Kentucky) also performed Rebecca West in Rosmersholm, Nora in A Doll’s House, and Hilda Wangel in The Master Builder. In the early 20th c. she was known for her liberating speeches defending the suffragist movement—see Way Stations, a 1913 collection of eloquent and powerfully feminist speeches by Robins (EarlyWomenMasters.net).




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