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Let’s Review! Terrific cast in new adaption of ‘Hedda Gabler’ at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Hedda Gabler (Mhari Sandoval) and Eilert Lovborg (Richard Baird) have a tense moment in North Coast Repertory Theatre’s world premiere translation of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler,’ directed by David Ellenstein through June 26.
Hedda Gabler (Mhari Sandoval) and Eilert Lovborg (Richard Baird) have a tense moment in North Coast Repertory Theatre’s world premiere translation of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘Hedda Gabler,’ directed by David Ellenstein through June 26.
(Aaron Rumley)

Jorgen (Bruce Turk) Tesman’s Aunt Juliane (Christina Soria) enters the empty living room carrying a bouquet of flowers to celebrate her nephew’s recent wedding. The maid, Berte (Rhona Gold), converses with Juliane until Jorgen appears.

There’s nothing happier than newlyweds in a cloud of happiness, as are Jorgen and his lovely new wife, Hedda Gabler (Mhari Sandoval). He bounds into the living room to share his happiness with his aunt and can’t wait for Hedda to join them.

When she finally does, the mood chills. Juliane is quite social with Hedda and Jorgen treats her like a princess. But Hedda is obviously unsettled. She moves around the room trying to answer their questions and make small talk, but her demeanor reveals someone who is definitely troubled. Maybe she’s a little annoyed that Jorgen took time on their honeymoon to do some work, since he recently earned a doctorate degree.

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Before Juliane leaves to visit Jorgen’s other aunt, who is very sick, she embraces Hedda who wiggles out of the hug as if being squeezed by a snake. Jorgen once again dotes on his wife with hugs and bright beaming, which implies she’s his trophy wife. He’s ecstatic when she rubs her abdomen as if something is already developing within.

Hedda, jittery and nervous, looks out the patio door as if expecting company. Soon several friends stop by to congratulate the couple, and Hedda grows more and more ill at ease.

The first is Thea Elvsted (Mel House). She is quite nervous and announces she has a problem with no one to help her. When she reveals that Eilert Lovborg (Richard Baird) is back in town, Jorgen is quite excited and proud that Lovborg has finished a book he’s about to publish. Hedda appears somewhat shocked and questions Thea about their relationship. Finally, Thea asks Hedda to keep an eye on Lovborg when he returns.

Jorgen goes to his bedroom while the two women have a long conversation; Hedda underestimating Thea’s prominence, and the plot thickens. Soon Judge Brack (Ray Chambers) shows up. Small talk sends him across the room toward Hedda as if he’s going to passionately pick her up in his arms. But he stops short. Then he reveals to Jorgen that the promotion he was looking forward to might go to Lovborg ...

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After Brack’s departure, Hedda and Jorgen have a conversation that brings up the subject of her gun possession, which alarms Jorgen. But he relaxes as he leaves for a visit with his aunt before his bachelor party that night.

Now alone, Hedda heads to the open patio door and fires a shot from her gun threating Judge Brack, who is re-entering the house. Though they talk, Hedda’s behavior suggests she might have known him intimately at one time. After several conversations with Brack, Hedda and Jorgen, Lovborg shows up with his new book, which he offers to leave for Jorgen to read.

As Brack and Jorgen leave for the bachelor party, Hedda, Thea and Lovborg stay behind. Their evening evolves into active sparing as Lovborg becomes upset and secrets from all three threaten all of their lives.

Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” was written in 1890 and set in contemporary Norway. It used symbolism to deal with explosive issues to explore the inner lives of the 19th century characters. Hedda is trapped in an unwanted marriage and facing a scandal, so the script is somewhat wordy, but very well performed by this remarkable cast in the world premiere translation of the classic by Ann Charlotte Harvey. Great direction from David Ellenstein.

IF YOU GO: “Hedda Gabler” runs through June 26 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets from $39. (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org


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