Never missing a beat

Hedda Gabler

“All right, who blew that fuse?”

“All right, who blew that fuse?”

Photo courtesy of the Art Theater of Davis

Hedda Gabler, 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday; and 3:30 p.m. Sunday; $15. The Art Theater of Davis in Third Space, 946 Olive Drive in Davis; (530) 902-5589; http://arttheater.brownpaper Through June 1.
Rated 4.0

The Art Theater of Davis avoids most of the “sophomore slump” in its second production, a new translation of Henrik Ibsen's classic Hedda Gabler by Adam Siegel and Timothy Nutter. The language is streamlined and contemporized a bit, but the gist of the classic play remains intact, with all the elements that make it a staple of modern realist theater.

As Hedda, Tatiana Ray exhibits a cool disinterest in the world that, in the first act, suggests sociopathy. By the end of the play, though, it is clear that her trapped circumstances and lack of options are at least as much to blame for her behavior as any personal failings. As her husband Tesman, Tyler Shaffo is lovable but obtuse, while John McLean's Judge Brack is suitably smarmy.

Nutter, who also directed, plays Eilert Lovborg as a more damaged and less charismatic man than is usually seen in the role. This leads to some question as to why both Hedda and Thea Elvsted (Tess Chism) would find him so fascinating, but the power of the play's language and pacing quickly eliminate any doubts.

The production, in the converted warehouse that houses the Third Space, a multipurpose community-arts center, has high values in a realistic set and detailed costuming, a veritable feast of eye candy. However, the recent heat caused a few problems at a recent show, as the makeshift cooling system of fans caused a blown fuse. Here's where the promise of the Art Theater of Davis became clear: The performers did not stumble, continuing without lighting and not missing a beat during the repair of the difficulty.

In fact, that can-do attitude—as well as the sort of attention to serious theater evidenced in both the choice of material and the quality of the translation and adaptation—offers a great deal of promise for the future contributions of this new company.