Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: Hedda Gabler

This Revival of the Classic Misfires

By Lauren Yarger
It’s supposed to be Hedda who is consumed with boredom and a lack of viable options, not the actress playing her, the rest of the cast and the audience. Unfortunately, these are the results in the latest revival of Roundabout Theatre Company’s Hedda Gabler at the American Airlines Theater.

Director Ian Rickson fails to find the spark to ignite considerable talent, including Mary-Louise Parker as Hedda and Michael Cerveris as her boring and ineffectual professor husband, Jorgen Tesman, and as a consequence, this modern adaptation by Christopher Shinn misfires instead of offering a lock, stock and barrel rendition of the Henrik Ibsen classic.

Parker tries to give some life to Hedda, bored with her new husband, who finds some excitement through the pistol collection left to her by her father, the great General Gabler, and by manipulating Tesman and the other people in their lives.

First, Hedda is rude to aunt Juliane (Helen Carey) who raised Tesman and who’s not quite ready to let him go. Then she seduces Tesman’s academic rival Ejlert Lovborg (Paul Sparks) who has written a masterpiece manuscript with the help of Thea Elvsted (Ana Reeder), the old schoolmate Hedda enjoys intimidating. Even Judge Brack (Peter Stormare), who handles Tesman’s meager finances which are hardly able to support the lifestyle desired by aristocratic Hedda, falls vulnerable to her charms. When her schemes fail to bring the results Hedda desires, tragedy ensues.

Parker is at her best when delivering lines of sarcastic humor and enhances them with body language and facial expressions. Most of the time, however, it appears that she’s trying hard to engage with the other actors who seem insulated from her.

Cerveris is believable as the ennui-inducing Tesman who spent his time missing his favorite slippers and pursuing academic research while on his honeymoon with the beautiful Hedda. Sparks, Stormare, Carey and Lois Markle, who plays the maid, all are equal to their parts, but there’s no chemistry or levels of interaction between any of them. Reeder, however, is miscast and consistently delivers emotionally charged lines flatly, as though she’s not quite sure what to do with them.

Hildegard Bechtler’s set design adequately conveys the dismal and confining environment in which the characters find themselves, but also, alas, is symbolic of this production.

Christians might also like to know:
• God’s name taken in vain
• Sexual acts
• Suicide

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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