March 26, 2009

A Desperate Housewife



I think I read somewhere that nobody does desperation like Mary-Louise Parker. Having been a fan of hers in Weeds I totally agree with that statement. So here comes another role of a desperate housewife, Hedda Gabler produced by the Roundabout Theatre. I saw it 2 saturdays ago. Written by Henrik Ibsen, the play is said to be the Hamlet of female roles so I was really excited to see the it.


I did like it. Having said that, I have read the play but it is my first time seeing a production of Hedda so I have nothing to compare it to. Hedda (MLP) is a priveleged daughter of a general who marries a bland scholar Jorgen Tesman (Michael Cerveris) to everyone's surprise. He is mostly preoccupied with his scholarly research and it is soon found out that Hedda doesn't love the man she's married to but has only done so because of her circumstance. Their lives are thrown into disaray when Ejlert Lovborg (Paul Sparks) reappears. He is Tesman's rival and Hedda's former lover. Lovborg has recently worked with Thea Elvsted (Ana Reeder), Hedda's former rival, and has written a brilliant manuscript. With this manuscript Lovborg starts to get acclaim and this threatens Tesman since both of them are candidates for a professorship that Tesman desperately wants. Jealous of Mrs. Elvsted's influence on Lovborg, Hedda tries to come between them and tests her ability to seduce Lovborg.

** SPOILERS
One night after a party, Tesman comes home saying that he had found Lovborg's manuscript which Lovborg somehow has lost. When Hedda sees Lovborg, he is so distraught that he has lost his masterpiece. Instead of telling him that they had the manuscript, Hedda convinces Lovborg to commit suicide because to her "that is the only heroic and noble thing to do." Yes she is not a very likeable character if I may say so. She gives him her gun to help him accomplish the deed. Hedda then burns the manuscript and tells her husband that she did it to secure their future. Lovborg is then found dead in a brothel. When news of Lovborg's death spreads Tesman feels guilty and believes that he owes it to his dead rival to get his manuscript completed. Mrs. Elvsted now reveals that she kept all of Lovborg's notes so that Tesman is encouraged and volunteers to collaborate with her in reassembling Lovborg's masterpiece. The very creepy Judge Brack (Peter Stromare) who's had intentions towards Hedda now tells her that Lovborg's death was actually not a suicide but really an accidental shooting. His gun that was in his pocket had gone off while he was in the brothel. This was devastating news to Hedda but in addition to that, Judge Brack knew that the gun Lovborg had was Hedda's and starts implying his power over her. Hedda now feels the trapness of another man's "control" then moves to her room and shoots herself in the temple. For her, it is the "only beautiful and freeing thing to do".

Mary-Louise Parker was great specially in the scenes when she manipulates and seduces. But I also have to mention that it's also wonderful to watch her when her character starts to crumble and realizes that she doesn't have the hold on people that she used to have. It's fascinating watching her dissintegrate. Michael Cerveris who I've always loved, played Tesman very blandly which I thought was effective because I found his character very boring. Paul Sparks was good as the lover still attracted to Hedda. Peter Stromare also was very effective because he just exudes creepiness during the show. Ana Reeder, well, don't know how to put it but her character was just annoying to me. And I don't know if that's direction or just her acting choices.

One thing I must say though is that I never realized that this play would have the audience laughing several times. Mary-Louise Parker has great skill in line readings that she was a sarcastically funny Hedda (yes in the Violet Weston August Osage County way). That was so refreshing to me. Another thing I also noticed (and that made me more understand why the show was panned by the NY Times) is that the characters were in period costumes (done beautifully by Ann Roth) and yet the dialogue was very modern. Now, I understand that they wanted to modernize the play to appeal to a contemporary audience but I just felt that it was disjointed. It didn't connect. Much of Hedda's dilemma stems from a trapped bland loveless marriage but as an audience member you couldn't feel her entrapment because of the modern dialogue. With this modern dialogue, the characters movement, gestures and demeanor on stage was also very modern. So juxtaposed with the period costumes, it did feel incohesive.




I did go to the stagedoor after the play. There were only about 7 people there. Mary-Louise Parker didn't come out but I thought that it was nice of her to send her dresser out to let people know that she wasn't going to come out since she was resting for the evening show. I thought that was nice of her and I'm cool with that.



poster by the stagedoor


the marquee at the American Airlines Theatre

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