Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hedda Gabler, adapted by Nigel O'Hearn, Palindrome Theatre Company at the Blue Theatre, February 18 - March 13

Hedda Gabler Palindrome Theatre

Hedda Gabler puzzled and annoyed audiences across Europe when it was first staged in 1890 and 1891 -- pretty much the same reaction Ibsen had elicited with most of his later plays. He was 61 when he wrote this one, exasperated with the bourgeois public that went to the theatre and purchased copies of his plays.

The last lines of the play are spoken by Judge Brack, that worldly sybarite who took Hedda's husband George and her would-be lover off to an all-night stag party, then comfortably assured Hedda he was looking forward to a cozy triangle, with her at the apex. In the crashing finale after Hedda kills herself with a pistol shot to the head, Brack expostulates, "But good God! People don't do such things!"

If that's a spoiler for you, accept my apologies. The secret has been out for a long time, however, and the real question of this play is not whether Hedda is going to use that pistol, but why she's going to do it. The first audiences for the work, in Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Cristiana, the capital of Norway, had stronger reactions than Judge Brack.

Attitudes changed gradually, however. Hedda, along with Nora from A Doll's House, were eventually viewed with more sympathy, particularly as women strove against the paternalism prevalent throughout Western society.

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