Hedda Gabler @ Raven Theatre

Our neighbor gave us tickets for a special performance of Hedda Gabler – one that involved free beer and wine and food and raffle prizes! It was a lovely event for the Edgewater Community Council – a lively group that Gator and I have decided to join.

As for the show? I really liked it. It was my first Ibsen – I think I may have read the play in high school. Director Michael Menendian puts a fresh twist on things, driving home the themes of power, money and manipulation (as if there’s a difference).

First off, when you enter the space, you encounter a giant steamer trunk, courtesy of set designer Andrei Onegin. The trunk is opened, much like an over-sized gift box, to reveal the inside of a Victorian parlor. At the back of the parlor sits another box, crowned with a giant, red bow. Much talk is made before Hedda emerges concerning her extravagant tastes and need for attention and perfection, so it only makes sense that when she does materialize, Hedda (the dry, petulant Mackenzie Kyle) emerges from that big box, encased in silk, heels and blonde curles. She’s Tessman’s gift, his new wife, and he owns her. But little does he know what she’s capable of. The action also takes place in her boudoir, accenting the underlying control of her circumstances. (At least I think it takes place in her boudoir, as her vanity table is just behind the sofa, and Tessman’s aunt scoffs that the living area has been rearranged to suit Hedda).

Kyle’s Hedda is very much the contemporary woman trapped in conventional times. Think Rachel McAdams in “Mean Girls,” with a touch of the pre-amnesia version of Christina Applegate’s character in “Samantha Who?” (Kyle looks very much like Applegate, too.) “Real Housewives of Olso County,” if you will. She’s bored, she’s bitchy, and she’s extremely frustrated with it all. You understand her underlying motive, always seeing the gears turning, a flash of wicked delight when she sees an opportunity to regain some power. Her dry, wry delivery makes an even bigger impact as everyone else on the stage is so earnest and devoted – particularly her husband, George Tesman (the wonderful Ian Novak). All pawns in Hedda’s dangerous game. The only person who catches on to her manipulations is Judge Brack (Jon Steinhagen) — which proves quite problematic for Hedda. How does she deal with it? Go see the play!

The Raven Theatre is a great space. Large stage, good chairs, nice lobby, clean bathrooms. In my book, the essentials for any good off-Loop theatre.

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