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It’s been five years since I last reviewed a play by Henrik Ibsen, and nine years since any of his plays were produced on Broadway. As far as most theater companies in the U.S. are concerned, he’s a back number—yet he’s still universally thought to be one of the most significant playwrights of the 19th century. What gives?
The answer is that Ibsen’s reputation has outlived his popularity….
The only one of Ibsen’s plays that has held the American stage is “ Hedda Gabler, ” which tells an intensely dramatic tale of a bored woman entangled in a loveless marriage who is looking to make her life more interesting by stirring up trouble for anyone within arm’s reach. Not only has Hedda’s self-inflicted plight remained involving to modern audiences, but “Hedda Gabler” is now performed exclusively in contemporary adaptations, some of them by such distinguished playwrights as Brian Friel, John Osborne and Christopher Shinn, that trim away Ibsen’s longueurs and modernize his language…
Dallas’s Undermain Theatre, which is responsible for some of the most imaginative theatrical webcasts to come my way since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, has just taken on “Hedda Gabler,” and the results are really fine—it’s one of the best productions of the play, in fact, that I’ve seen. Blake Hackler, who not only did the staging but wrote the adaptation, deserves much, perhaps most, of the credit for its consistently high quality. In addition to cutting out a superfluous servant and knocking a full hour off the running time (this production clocks in at an hour and 39 minutes), he has updated the text, never obtrusively and often to smartly pointed effect….
* * *Read the whole thing here.