Friday, May 20, 2011

Upcoming: Hedda Gabler, Classic Theatre, San Antonio, May 12 - 29

Hedda Gabler, Classic Theatre San Antonio, Asia Ciaravino

Mr. and Mrs. George Tesman return to Norway after six months of honeymoon in Europe. In their absence family friend Judge Brack has arranged the purchase of a city mansion at great expense and furnished it lavishly. Ibsen's Hedda Gabler opens on the morning after their arrival at the new residence and a new domestic life.

Allan S. Ross designed this set with meticulous detail. The audience has the time to study the heavy furniture, carpets, framed engravings, views into three additional rooms and a barely glimpsed horizon through the windows. As one listens to a querelous duet between piano and cello, the roseate illumination brings out the reds and purples. At stage right, rear, in his own pool of light, bearded and wearing his military decorations, the late General Gabler stares serenely out from his portrait.

This is a house, not a home. Everything is in its place, according to good taste, discreet expenditure and bourgeois standards. In the action that Ibsen unfolds for us, Hedda Gabler as the new mistress of the house is guarded in her reactions to everyone in these new circumstances. Having passed the age of coquettery, she married George Tesman for lack of anything better to do; now, having involuntarily made her nest with a passing comment about this particular manor, she finds herself obliged to live in it.

Asia Ciaravino is haunting in the title role. That quiet, watchful oval face is almost unblinking, She has the unconscious beauty of a woman who little cares whether others look at her or not.

In one sense, in Hedda Gabler Ibsen wrote a great thumping melodrama and resolved all the conflicts with a couple of pistol shots. One occurs far from the house and is described for us as the Greeks used to do at the conclusions of their tragedies. The second takes place in the final moments just behind a curtain in one of those alcoves as Hedda takes her own life. That's hardly giving anything away -- although the program states that Hedda Gabler was first presented in Dublin in 2008, that's referring to this adaptation by Brian Friel for the Gate Theatre. Hedda has been putting the pistol to her head since 1891, and many spectators echo the scandalized reaction of Judge Brack: "But people just don't do things like that!"

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