Hedda Gabler
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by David Allen

When Henrik Ibsen’s play Hedda Gabler first opened in 1891, the newspapers called it “a hideous nightmare of pessimism” that portrayed “the foulest passions of humanity.” A Norwegian critic called the main character, Hedda, a “monster created by the author in the form of a woman who has no counterpart in the real world.” The Danish critic George Brandes found her “a true type of degeneration (incapable) of yielding herself, body and soul, to the man she loves.”

By today’s standards she’s merely a bored housewife, a beautiful kept woman who was never given the opportunity to blossom into a fully actuated woman and take a contributing place in society. Of course this is the 1890s and women are far from liberated. But that’s precisely what makes the character of Hedda so interesting. Even then, Ibsen was able to depict the seeds of discontent, which eventually led to the sexual revolution.

What happens when a woman of any time period is trapped into merely being someone’s wife and never allowed to become herself? With Hedda, she finds herself building a life of suppressed life and sexuality which grows into an interest in guns and more than one triangle involving other men. In today’s world these triangles would turn into steamy sex scandals, but Hedda is part of her society and remains true to her husband. She only allows herself to explore these triangles as a voyeur, which actually increases the danger to everyone involved. One way or the other, the suppressed wildness of a stifled life will eventually bubble to the surface, and when it does, all hell breaks loose.

Don’t miss this excellent Aurora Theatre production of Hedda Gabler starring Stacy Ross as Hedda. Ross is one of the most versatile actresses in Bay Area Theatre, and her subtle rendition of Hedda opens the door to the many sides of human nature when confronted with the loss of freedom and self worth.

For tickets call (510) 843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org.

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