Intiman's 'Hedda': an ice queen unravels
A review of "Hedda Gabler," starring Marya Sea Kaminski, one of the productions in the Intiman Theatre Festival. Runs through Aug. 25, 2012.
Seattle Times theater critic
'Hedda Gabler'By Henrik Ibsen. Through Aug. 25 as part of the Intiman Theatre Festival at Intiman Playhouse, Seattle Center; $30 (800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com).
Theater review |
As the antiheroine in Henrik Ibsen's 1890 play "Hedda Gabler," Marya Sea Kaminski is a Nordic princess sculpted in ice.
That translucent skin, those high cheekbones, the pale-blonde hair in a silky chignon are so alluring. But the smile is frozen, the gaze crystallized. And as this bored Norwegian newlywed lounges in the fancy house she craved, and now despises, her Grace Kelly cool cracks. And her sleek limbs start a-quivering.
You can't take your eyes off Kaminski in Andrew Russell's Intiman Theatre Festival staging of "Hedda Gabler," which she dominates with an aura of deranged hauteur.
But this vision of Ibsen's study of female alienation feels incomplete. It's so focused on Hedda's every move (with spates of choreography by Olivier Wevers), that we get little sense of the people and society she feels so oppressed by — or whether they deserve her scorn.
Those other characters circling in Hedda's orbit should be more compelling.
Garbed in fashions by Erik Andor that suggest a 1940s or '50s time stamp, the line of visitors to the formal Gabler parlor begins with her husband's aunt, played with curious chic and venom by Shellie Shulkin.
Next, Hedda's tremulous ex-schoolmate Thea (Fawn Ledesma) arrives, confessing extramarital devotion to the brilliant writer Lovborg (Michael Place).
Compulsively fretting and pacing the floor in high heels, Ledesma taps the surface of an interesting victim of fortune able to find more fulfillment than pampered Hedda.
When Lovborg appears, on a comeback from a long binge of dissolution, it's anti-climatic. Wearing drab gray student gear, the restrained Place cuts a bland figure. And the complex, important mutual attraction between Hedda and this former beau of hers barely registers.
Nor is there much to hang onto in Ryan Fields' wishy-washy portrayal of Tesman, the poor schnook pedant who won Hedda with luxuries he couldn't afford. It's hard to tell here if Tesman's just an obtuse, henpecked fool — or if he's aware his wife despises him, and is making the best of a bad bargain.
The only one who stands toe-to-toe with Hedda (and Kaminski) is Timothy McCuen Piggee, a powerful presence as Judge Brack. As an arch manipulator who lays sexual claim to Hedda, Piggee comes on as a master of sly insinuation, attentive patronage, and, when opportunity strikes, a suave blackmailer.
As the net tightens around Hedda, her internal desperation erupts via Wevers' increasingly unhinged, heavily expressionistic choreography. But her final modern-dance paroxysm is so extreme, it dulls the impact of Hedda's last act.
Hedda self-destructs as a gesture of tedium, or panic, or romanticism. But what is she escaping? A world we've barely glimpsed.