Drama queens and pistol-packing psychopaths
Sacramento, CA 95816
When you have two of the most talented women in local theater working together to breathe life into one of drama’s most fascinating female characters, you’re bound to come out with a memorable production.
And that’s just what happens when Janis Stevens directs Stephanie Gularte in Capital Stage’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. As expected in a collaboration of these two theater talents, this adaptation presents central character Hedda in a whole new light.
Ibsen is considered one of the pioneer playwrights of modern realism, presenting flawed, layered, compelling characters that successfully and unsuccessfully deal with complex personal and societal issues. And in Hedda Gabler, because his main character is an enigmatic woman whose actions and motives are questionable, Hedda is presented as a complex woman. Depending on the moment, she’s a victim, a villain, a tragic heroine or a mentally unstable woman.
Here, Capital Stage has masterfully layered a sinister undertone to the play and most its characters, painting Hedda as pistol-packing psychopath. And Gularte, in a swan-song winning performance before she steps down from her position as artistic director of Capital Stage, gives us a totally captivating drama-queen diva.
The story, which explores both characters and society, is set in late 1890s Norway. It opens with an unhappy Hedda returning from a six-month honeymoon with her academic husband George (a wonderfully nuanced Michael Wiles). It becomes clear that the beautiful, headstrong Hedda married for financial security and because she ran out of suitors, but now is bored and ready to stir up some shit.
Ibsen explores the plight of women bound financially to marriage both in Hedda and another villager Thea (Jessica Chisum in a subtle yet multifaceted performance). The other main characters—the tortured artist (Jonathan Rhys Williams), the ne’er-do-well judge (Peter Mohrmann) and the put-upon Aunt Julia (Vada Russell)—all are also colored with subtle shades of manipulation and self-absorption, resulting in a unique, enthralling adaptation.