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Chapel Hill, NC-based Deep Dish Theater Company will present another masterpiece of Modern Drama, Hedda Gabler by Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Nov. 1-22 in its small black-box theater behind Branching Out in University Mall. Hedda Gabler is a brilliant character study of the highly intelligent, but deeply frustrated and unfulfilled title character. Deep Dish will perform contemporary playwright Jon Robin Baitz's recent adaptation of this classic drama, which was first performed in 1890.
"I read it in college, I suppose," says director Paul Frellick. "I've never worked on a production of it, though it's been on my to-do list for quite a while."
Frellick says, "In Hedda Gabler, Ibsen has created a tightly woven world in which everyone is desperate to carve out a sphere of influence. The playwright's gift for creating fascinatingly complex characters, particularly women, is at its most evident in this play.
"Classic plays like Hedda Gabler test the mettle of a theater company," claims Frellick, "and we are excited to take on a play that carries so much with it. We know that audiences will come to our production with certain expectations, and we hope not only to meet or exceed those expectations But also to subvert and surprise as well."
Frellick says, "The production is set in Norway around 1890, when the play was written. It takes place the new home of George and Hedda Tesman, a home in which each of them is still uncomfortable."
When the curtain rises, Frellick says, "Hedda and George Tesman (Dorothy R. Brown and Alexander Wilson) [have returned] from a six-month honeymoon/scholarly venture to a new home, which George's Aunt Julia (Nan Stephenson) and family friend Judge Brack (Mark Jeffrey Miller) have secured for them. Aunt Julia has even provided them with her maid, Berta (Kim Beaver).
"Hedda, however, is unhappy in her marriage and her new surroundings," Frellick explains, "and becomes increasingly desperate to find some purpose to her life. When Thea Elvsted (Katja Hill), an acquaintance of both Hedda's and George's, arrives with news of Eilert Lovborg (Geoffrey Zeger), a brilliant philosopher with a sordid past, Hedda finds the excitement she is so hungry for, and she sets off on a dangerous path of deceit and manipulation."
Staging this well-known drama on a tiny stage presents considerable creative challenges to director Paul Frellick and his production team, which includes set designer Derrick Ivey, lighting designer Steve Dubay, costume designer Judy Chang, sound designer Al Singer, and props mistress Devra Thomas.
"Ibsen's plays ask you to find a way to incorporate a modern sensibility while remaining true to the world of the play," Frellick says. "Finding that balance is always tricky."
Deep Dish Theater Company presents Hedda Gabler Saturday, Nov. 1, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 2, at 3 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 6-8, 13-15 and Nov. 20-22, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 9 and 16, at 3 p.m.; and Wednesday, Nov. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the space behind Branching Out at the Dillard's end of University Mall, at the intersection of Estes Drive and U.S. 15-501, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. $14 ($10 students and $12 seniors), except pay-what-you-can matinee Nov. 2. 919/968-1515. http://www.deepdishtheater.org/. Note 1: Deep Dish's storefront theater is located in the area behind Branching Out, which is located between Cameron's and The Print Shop. Enter through Branching Out. Note 2: There will be a discussion after the Nov. 9 performance. Note 3: Dr. David Carr will lead the Deep Dish Book Club discussion of Ibsen's 1892 play The Master Builder at 7 p.m. Nov. 20 in Tyndall Galleries in University Mall.