Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Updated `Hedda Gabler' Would Disappoint Ibsen Nearly Every Aspect of the Roundabout's Revival Is Second Rate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Updated `Hedda Gabler' Would Disappoint Ibsen Nearly Every Aspect of the Roundabout's Revival Is Second Rate

Article excerpt

HEDDA GABLER. Play by Ibsen. Translated by Frank McGuinness. Directed by Sarah Pia Anderson. Presented by the Roundabout Theatre at the Criterion Center.

AFTER a season that included such notable successes as two Tony-nominated musical productions ("A Grand Night for Singing" and "She Loves Me"), the Roundabout Theatre Company is to be forgiven for a misstep, and they have definitely come up with one in their revival of Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler."

Ibsen's tragedies are difficult to perform under the best of circumstances (National Actors Theatre, which has a similar mission and is located just around the corner from the Roundabout, had one of their biggest failures with "The Master Builder"). Still, this production is, surprisingly, overwhelmingly bad in every respect.

To begin with, playwright Frank McGuinness ("Someone Who'll Watch Over Me") has provided a translation that is archaic without being poetical, and unrelentingly awkward.

Someone, either he or director Sarah Pia Anderson, has updated the action to the post-World War II era, which does nothing to enhance the subtext of the work, while making the desperate emotionalism of the characters seem anachronistic.

Anderson's direction is overstated at every turn, and reduces a cast of fine performers, who have all done distinguished work elsewhere, to overacting and posturing.

Hedda is played by Kelly McGillis, who, besides a string of movie triumphs ("Witness," "The Accused," "Top Gun"), has also distinguished herself with acclaimed classical performances at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre. …

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