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Deep Dish Theatre Company Review: Feminist Heroine Hedda Gabler Defies Conventions in This Provoctive Henrik Ibsen Drama

November 7, 2003 - Chapel Hill, NC:


Hedda Gabler by Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906) is a widely acknowledged masterpiece of Modern Drama; and its self-absorbed, headstrong title character, who rebels against any and all forms of oppression in general and male domination in particular, is an early feminist icon.

In Deep Dish Theater Company's stellar production of Hedda Gabler, the lovely and talented Dorothy R. Brown plays the newly wedded Hedda Gabler Tesman magnificently, with steely determination and an icy, imperious manner that belies her beauty and owes much to her pampered upbringing as the pampered daughter of a prominent military man. In addition to her determination to defy the suffocating restrictions that Norway's male-chauvinist society, circa 1890, imposed on its women, Hedda also is determined to be her husband's fiercest champion.

George Tesman (Alexander Wilson) is a promising young academician about to write a ground-breaking book. When Hedda learns that the notorious womanizer Eilert Lovborg (Geoffrey Zeger), her husband's erstwhile friend and rival in academe, has just completed an eye-opening treatise on the same subject that threatens to eclipse her husband's modest discoveries, Hedda is willing to lie, cheat, and steal to prevent Lovborg from publishing first.

Alexander Wilson is charming as amiable George Tesman, who would be horrified if he knew about Hedda's sinister schemes to derail his rival's career. Geoffrey Zeger makes Eilert Lovborg quite the ladies' man, while hinting at the sensitive, inquiring mind that Lovborg's boorish behavior conceals.

Katja Hill garners audience sympathy as Lovborg's latest inamorata, poor silly chatterbox Thea Elvsted, a beautiful blonde who doubles as stenographer and typist for Lovborg. Mark Jeffrey Miller is good as stuffy Tesman family friend Judge Brack, a staunch conservative and a seeming pillar of virtue who is not above a little blackmail to put uppity Hedda back in her place. Nan Stephenson bustles about the stage and clucks gloriously like a mother hen as George Tesman's formidable Aunt Julia; and Kim Beaver contributes a nice cameo as Berta, the snoopy maid hired by Aunt Julia to keep an eagle eye on the newlyweds and report back to Aunt Julia.

Paul Frellick adds to his reputation as one of the Triangle finest directors with this smartly staged production of contemporary playwright Jon Robin Baitz's lively adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's landmark domestic drama. Set designer Derrick Ivey superbly recreates and decorates the main room of the Tesmans' home. Lighting designer Steve Dubay keeps the spotlight solidly on the play's various intrigues, and costume designer Judy Chang and props mistress Devra Thomas clothe the characters in wonderfully detailed period finery and provide the performers with an impressive array of household objects from the period. And sound designer Al Singer also makes sizable contributions, crafting a commendable soundscape for this crowd-pleasing production.

Deep Dish Theater Company presents Hedda Gabler 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.