A.C.T. (American Conservatory Theatre) in San Francisco is currently showing Henrik Ibsen's masterpiece, Hedda Gabler, at the beautiful Geary Theatre. I went to see this show last Wednesday afternoon, and despite the coughing, wheezing, snoring, hearing aid mal-adjusted audience, it turned out to be one of the best theatre experiences I have ever had.
I am going to try something here as an experiment. Because of our overly committed lifestyles it seems that people tend to read blogs more often when they are written in a list format. So here's my list...
Top 5 Things that make A.C.T.'s Production of Hedda Gabler Great
1. Rene Augesen. Simply put, Rene's portrayal of Hedda is brilliant. Her ability to completely embody a character in all her complexity draws you in completely. I have never seen an audience so mesmerized by an actor on stage. You could feel the sold out crowd ride the roller coaster of Hedda's emotions from the first moment of the play to the end. What a fantastic actress she is.
2. Paul Walsh's translation is brilliant. He took a script written in 1890 and made it feel contemporary without losing the feel of the 19th century. I have read numerous translations of Ibsen's works, and this is the only one I have ever heard that completely removes the dated feel without losing any of the classical sound of the text.
3. The set and lights. Scaffolding surrounding a living room and sitting room turned the set into a realistic piece that also brought in the loneliness in a symbolic way. The actors would periodically appear on the scaffolding alone and lonely. It really added a creepiness that worked fabulously.
4. The sound. John Gromada wrote some original music for this piece that added a Hitchcockian feel to the piece. It really created an atmosphere of foreboding and isolation.
5. The humor. Whenever I have read Ibsen or scene a production I often feel like laughing out loud. Usually, however, I restrain myself because, after all it's Ibsen. You're not supposed to laugh. God might strike you dead or something. But, under Richard E.T. White's direction the actors unabashedly embrace Ibsen's humor and run with it. Like in an Albee play you laugh at the awful. It's very disconcerting but wonderful.