'Hedda Gabler' An Opening Tour-de-Force at Wellfleet's Harbor Stage
By: Jeannette de Beauvoir, July 2, 2012
JI-YOUN CHANG - Lewis Wheeler and Brenda Withers (foreground) exchange a war of words while (at left) Jonathan Fielding and Stacy Fischer listen in during the Harbor Stage Company's production of Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler," running through July 14.
Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler is not one of the world’s easiest plays, but Wellfleet’s new Harbor Stage Company is clearly not about things being easy.
See for yourself...
Harbor Stage Company
15 Kendrick Ave., Wellfleet
Performances Wednesday- Saturday at 7:30 PM through July 14. Closed July 4.
For tickets and reservations: 508-349-6800
The idea for forming the company only began in earnest last fall, and the six young actors/writers/stagehands/box office/marketers/directors are starting a scant nine months later at the very top in terms of difficult plays.
And pulling it off beautifully.
Ambitious yet flawless
It has to be said: this is possibly the best theater I’ve seen on the Cape. There is not a misstep in the production, from the set to the music to the costumes to the fantastic acting.
Brenda Withers is sensational in the title role, flawlessly conveying meaning with the smallest of subtle gestures and the most fleeting of expressions. Ibsen gives Hedda a lot of lines that are witty and dry—so subtle that actors tend to deliver them with far less nuance than Withers does here. The rest of the cast rises easily to her level.
The story is one of ambiguity and repression. Despite her numerous flirtations with other men, Hedda has married Tesman, an uninteresting academic who bought her a house she’d once said she wanted to live in because she was trying to move an awkward conversation along. In a conversation with one of her admirers, Judge Brack she refers to the house as “a bouquet—the day after the ball.”
Still, she’s clearly stuck there, and behind her husband’s back makes bantering double-edged and double-meaning conversation with the judge—amusing and urbane as played by Lewis D. Wheeler—before being confronted by someone about whom she might actually have real feelings.
Or not. It’s unclear whether Hedda’s manipulations of the people around her are an indication of her wanting to experience love, of her need for independence, or simply of her boredom. Still, she might have been happy holding power over her husband and continuing to spar with people like the judge, had not Thea Elvstead finally taken over Tesman’s attention and passion.
In the spotlight
Jonathan Fielding’s Tesman is perfectly balanced between his desire to please and his own ambitions; the portrayal reminds one of Kelsey Grammar at his best. When Hedda sees that she cannot control him any longer—and is actually in a position to be herself controlled—she decides simply not to fight anymore.
Stacy Fischer deftly portrays Thea Elvstead, whose character is layered with a mix of dependence on men and a surprising ability to revolt when necessary (not to mention her “irritating” hair!).
As the mysterious Ejlert Lövobor’s larger-than-life persona gives way to abject disillusionment, there are also flashes of humor, self-deprecation and self-aggrandizement, alternated by actor and director Robert Kropf with absolute spot-on timing.
The Harbor Stage Company is clearly the brightest theatrical light currently on the Cape. Friday performances are always pay-what-you-can, and there is a talkback with the actors following every performance. Secure your tickets now!