Hedda Gabler

Directed by D. A. G. Burgos
Creative Artists Laboratory
Trilogy Theatre
341 West 44th Street (316-0400)
Non-union production (closes Feb. 13)
Review by Mark Harborth

Creative Artists Laboratory deserve credit for their selection of material. Unfortunately, that is where the credit must end. Trouble brewed when the actors couldn't agree on the pronunciation of the title character's name. Some said "Gabbler." Some said "Gobbler." It was that lack of attention to detail that made the final gunshot a blessing.

D.A.G. Burgos's direction was heavy-handed and melodramatic, with complete disregard for period and style. The movement was static and the actors displayed their emotions with the subtlety of sledgehammers. The production was full of ambiguities and anachronisms, and void of focus and direction.

Technically, Less would have been More...if not preferable. Set Designer Michael Jalbert painted two walls of the black-box theatre beige, hung a tattered picture, strung up a piece of lace to represent a window, and called it quits. The difficulty came when the characters repeatedly referred to the opulence around them.

With lighting, Less was, indeed, More. Successful attempts were made to shift mood and focus with the limited equipment. The costumes looked pulled together, but passed; with the exception of Hedda's dressing gown, which was, in fact, a shawl. (Surely someone owned a robe.) And an immediate dismissal must be given to the sad wig worn by Ms. Klein. It is hard to believe the actress's own hair would be the second choice.

Tanya Klein portrayed the title role. The play speaks of Hedda's beauty, sexuality, and charm as a thin veneer on a cold and unhappy heart. Ms. Klein's portrayal, however, was reminiscent of Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond; switching infinitely from wide-eyed grin to alum-soaked sneer. As George Tesman, Jared Dawber, though a bit young, held his own and provided some of the evening's more interesting line readings. (Though why did he choose to play a gentleman without shaving?) Elizabeth Hipwell's Aunt Julie did fine once she removed her dreadful hat and the audience were allowed to see her face, amidst moments of upstaging. The Thea Elvsted of Amelia Berson was all but comatose, and John Naughton played Judge Brack as if he were a deli owner in Queens. Kim Carrell, as Eilert Lovborg, looked as if he were the only cast member who hadn't gotten dressed in a darkened thrift store. Though a commanding presence, he seemed misdirected into wearing his emotions on his sleeve. The program also lists George Spelvin as Berta, the maid. There is even a cute, "pretend bio" in the program. Perhaps this is the most obvious example of this company not taking themselves seriously enough.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 0

Acting: 1

Set: 0

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 1999 Mark Harborth