University of Indianapolis, Ransburg Auditorium. Directed by Brad Wright.
With Hedda Gabler, we get the unabridged Ibsen, full cast, set and period costuming. Rather than the intimacy of Eleanora (see above), it has a slow-building and satisfying big-picture awareness. The frenetic pre-curtain music prepares us for tension we get from scene one, in small and ever increasing doses. Upon the glamorous Hedda’s entrance, it is clear that she is, at the least, thoughtless and probably manipulative. In the hands of a contemporary author, Hedda would be a flat portrait of a sociopath. Miraculously ahead of his time, Ibsen creates a complex heroine who, a century later, represents less how much society cages a woman and more how each of us is trapped, sometimes disastrously, by our own egos. Supporting characters display varying degrees of comfort with their cages. The genius alcoholic and his would-be lover are in full-blown angst, while the salacious judge and ridiculously self-denying aunt forge through life with certitude. Recalling her role in last year’s Shape of Things, Ryan O’Shea reigns supreme as Hedda, a woman who would wrestle a lion, or more likely feed someone to it, to provide diversion from her barren internal life. Alex Oberheide is borderline brilliant as the husband living in a fantasyland of good intentions and happy endings in the face of clear-cut tragedy.