By Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Jon Robin Baitz
Translated by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey
Directed by Michael Menendian
At Raven Theatre
Outstanding performance by Mackenzie Kyle anchors Hedda Gabler
Raven Theatre’s fine production of Henrik Ibsen’s 1891 Hedda Gabler, in a contemporary adaptation by Jon Robin Baitz, is a star turn for Mackenzie Kyle as the neurotic, spoiled and totally devious Hedda Tesman (formerly Gabler). Hedda Gabler is the story of Ibsen’s ultimate socialite, the daughter of a Norwegian aristocratic General.
She is used to luxury, bored with her life (she seeks adventure); she perceives her life as a prisoner bound by societal conventions. She lacks inspiration as she deviously plots her own security as her feeling of alienation rules her life. Many of the greatest actress, including Maggie Smith, Annette Bening, Judy Davis and Ingrid Bergman among others have relished playing the “female Hamlet” Hedda Gabler. You can now add Mackenzie Kyle to that list. Her Hedda Gabler is a most complete performance as she uses vocal inflections, terrific body language and stirring facial expressions to indicate her true motivations. Kyle’s work is riveting, subtle and effective.
Hedda is determined to live in luxury and she now realizes that her weakling husband, George Tesman (Ian Novak) is an academic who’ll never give her the security and enterprise necessary to meet her needs. She plots to help George get a facility position and when one of her ex-boyfriends, Eilbert Lovberg (Ian Paul Custer) is perceived as a threat—she shrewdly manipulates him and his new love interest, Mrs. Elvsted (Symphony Sanders) to her desires. We witness the cruelty of Hedda when she terrorizes Berta (Claudia Gerrison), the maid and she insults George’s aunt, Miss Julia Tesman (JoAnn Montemurro) upon meeting her.
Feeling powerless, Hedda connives to dominate all the people in her life. She enjoys the game of psychological dominance and the power struggle that tests her wit and her reading of people. She struggles with Judge Brack (Jon Steinhagen) for control her life and the lives of those around her. We see how Hedda’s manipulations ultimately traps her beyond her ability to escape. Ibsen’s plot is clever and compelling. Hedda is truly the anti-heroine whose elusive character is alluring yet wicked.
Raven Theatre’s production values are first class. From Andrei Onegin’s Victorian opulent set complete with a box room to JoAnn Montemurro’s period perfect costumes, Hedda Gabler is paramount theatrical entertainment. Michael Menendian’s smart casting produced several fine performances besides the fabulous turn from Mackenzie Kyle. I particularly enjoyed Jon Steinhagen’s wicked Judge Brack and Ian Novak’s naively clueless George Tesman. Ibsen would have loved this production of Hedda Gabler. I know I did.
At Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL, Call 773-338-2177, www.raventheatre.com, tickets $25 – $20 students/seniors, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through July 25, 2009