By Ed Kliszus
Director/translator Robert Greer set Ibsen’s masterpiece in 1981 Norway in this world premiere performed in English. Greer’s efforts in this regard are of note and help ensure broad access to Ibsen’s masterpieces by English-speaking audiences. This is akin to English or German performances of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s acclaimed Solveig’s Song, which has resulted in worldwide admiration. Greer’s “Hedda Gabler” is a refashioning of a tragic, universal, eternal human chronicle of boredom, greed, jealousy, desire, ambition, and tragedy. The ineffable results, tant pis, are inexorable.
The drama takes place in a pleasant, placid living room with a grand piano and comfortable furnishings like a leather sofa, upholstered upright chairs with end tables, a desk, bar, radio, and floor lamp. It possesses the accouterments of a comfortable middle-class home for littérateurs.
Human nature prevails as little has changed since Henrik Ibsen’s portrayal of “Hedda Gabler” in 1891 Norway. In tonight’s “Hedda Gabler,” we witnessed the meandering deviltries of the pistol-packing soubrette and worldly young wife Hedda (Natalie Menna). Hedda contrives to eradicate her paunchy older husband Tesman’s (John Cencio Burgos) rival Eilert Lovborg (Brad Fryman), for a university post.
We come to dislike the importunate unsavory Judge Brack (Mike Roche), who continually pressures Hedda to permit him to join her marriage in some type of triangle. Brack is intuitive enough to sense that Hedda married Tesman not for love but for social standing, security, and some monetary gain; he exposes her motivations for his purposes. Brack seems to possess some influence in the outcome of the selection for the university post.
Thea (Bailey Newman) seems a bit fatuous and has left her older husband to become mixed up with the roué and literary genius Lovborg. She’s capable enough to serve as his amanuensis in creating his magnum opus and might emerge as a minor hero.
The cast thrived as it characterized and supported the peregrination and kaleidoscope of the various interplays and tensions. Natalie Menna’s Hedda was particularly charming, vibrant, sparkling, and ultimately, as predetermined by the modernist raconteur Ibsen, her destiny was bitterly ironic and heartbreaking.
Some of Hedda’s snide comments about Tesman’s diffidence and shortcomings evoked some audience chuckles, but overall, we experienced a portentous sense of misfortune. As time passed, no satisfying or glorious dénouement seemed possible, and the closing scene evoked a horripilation.
The Theater for the New City presents exciting, stimulating, and globally entertaining works. It is surrounded by marvelous restaurants and is located in Manhattan’s East Village, a short walk from Tompkins Square Park. See the links below for tickets and upcoming events.
Natalie Menna as Hedda
Bailey Newman as Thea
John Cencio Burgos as Tesman
Mike Roche as Judge Brack
Brad Fryman as Lovborg
HEDDA GABLER by Henrik Ibsen
Produced by the August Strindberg Rep
Director/translator Robert Greer
Set design is by Lytza Colon.
Lighting design is by Alexander Bartenieff.
Costume design is by Billy Little.
Stage Manager is Jose F. Ruiz.
Performing company’s website: https://strindbergrep.com/
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street) New York, NY 10003
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM $18 general admittance $15 seniors & students
Runtime: 90 minutes with a 10-minute intermission.