Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler is a serious play, with a capital “S.” One thing audiences should be prepared for in this production of “Resolving Hedda,” is that it is absolutely delicious fun. All the characters are still there—Hedda; her stodgy clueless husband George Tesman; Thea Elvsted; Eilert Lovborg; Judge Brack; Aunt Julia. But this Hedda is determined that she will NOT die at the end of the play and sets out to change the ending.
‘Resolving Hedda’ keeps the laughs coming and is a very funny romp among the upper crust.
This is a deliriously funny farce that takes the audience on a loopy joyride to keep Hedda alive. And why not add a triumphant march. After all, it’s not too much to ask to have a little victory lap when you’ve been killed off in thousands of productions since 1891, right? At least, that’s what this Hedda is hoping for. And in the end, so are we.
The show takes the same starting point as does the original. In that, spoiled, rich, and headstrong Hedda (daughter of a deceased famous general) and George have returned from their six-month honeymoon. Over the course of four acts, Hedda manipulates people and destroys what is important to them, only to be blackmailed by the judge. Rather than face a scandal, and with the potential loss of her little bit of freedom from being in the judge’s power, Hedda shoots herself with one of her father’s pistols. So that’s the original plot.
But our Hedda doesn’t want to keep dying as a spoiled, obnoxious, manipulative character; and this show also partly becomes a study on evolution—Hedda is the brainchild of a white man in the latter half of the nineteenth century when women had little voice in anything. Our Hedda points out that she’s plain sick and tired of dying all the time and is going to change that narrative or, well, die trying. And that’s where the fun comes in.
Hedda, forthrightly and brashly played by Kelly Karcher, doesn’t make apologies for her character’s seeming shallowness—after all, she didn’t write herself. She does offer a hint of what a more fully-realized Hedda might have been, and you find yourself rooting for her to win. She is also foul-mouthed, crabby and prone to screaming at who she perceives to be an underling. So, how much is nature vs. nurture here?
Jamie Smithson as George proves his comedic chops once again. He actually galumphs about, which is almost as funny as his utter mystification about Hedda, and anything she says. Emelie Faith Thompson plays Thea and handles her well. She is always perfectly put together, with not one hair out of place when Hedda tries to set it on fire. Somehow she makes leaving her husband to follow her lover look prim and proper.
As Aunt Julia, Jewell Robinson takes befuddlement at Hedda’s pronouncements and adds a bit of panic, all in a very ladylike way. She is so determined not to hear what is being said that she has perfected that 1,000-yard gaze verbally. Matthew Castleman makes a lovely Lovborg; he is tall and brooding and knows how to gracefully throw himself onto a chair or sofa. Steven Beall is appropriately smarmy and smug as Judge Brack, and you long for a #metoo movement to start every time he opens his mouth.
Director Steven Carpenter keeps the action moving along at a brisk pace. The set, b Tara Lyman-Dobson, is perfectly in keeping with the late Victorian era, and the fainting couch is a nice touch as it keeps the set from looking too claustrophobic, which a more standard, high-backed sofa would do.
This is a very funny take on one of the stalwarts of theatre. Even if you’re not entirely familiar with the original, it doesn’t matter. “Resolving Hedda” keeps the laughs coming and is a very funny romp among the upper crust.
Advisory: Strong language; sexual innuendo; a gunshot. But somehow strong language in late Victorian dress sounds rather posh.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with one 15-minute intermission.
“Resolving Hedda,” runs from March 21 – April 14, 2019, at Washington Stage Guild, Undercroft Theatre, 900 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. For more information, please click here.