Monday, August 13, 2012

theatre notes. hedda gabler

 I gave up on Intiman Theatre a few years before they collapsed in on themselves early in 2011. This made me sad, because I had loved them when I was a teenager. Intiman introduced me to so many things - Shaw, Ibsen, Pinter, Mike Daisey. But they had won a Tony some years back; the running joke was that the artistic director was hardly ever in Seattle, having taken his “One Ring” (as Mike Daisey referred to his Tony award) and gone to New York. There were fewer local faces onstage now. There was that one play which was so unfinished that a (minor) character mentioned in the review and listed in the credits didn’t actually appear during the performance. A new artistic director arrived, hand-picked by the previous one; it felt to me that while her body was here her heart was still back in New York with her husband and child. To be a SEATTLE THEATRE you have to commit, full-on, and that wasn't happening. I was done; I had moved on.

ACT across town had gotten itself back on track after a rocky few years of their own; with Steven Dietz’s BECKY’S NEW CAR in 2008 I found myself at home there again. A friend had introduced me to Strawberry Theatre Workshop; through my ACT subscription I discovered the New Century Theatre Company. The Seattle Rep seduced me with Bill Cain’s EQUIVOCATION in the winter of 2009, a co-production with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. People were making beautiful theatre, mostly with local talent, and my attention stayed on them. Intiman, with its New York actors and Hollywood progeny, lost me completely. Still, I regretted their loss.

Then rumblings came about of a four-play summer festival, lead by a new artistic director, Andrew Russell. Young and ridiculously adorable, like a Labrador puppy but with a longer attention span, he seemed to be onto something good. I was intrigued, but not ready to commit to anything. I was not eager for ROMEO & JULIET (which I hated as a teenager), or a couple of yet-to-be-confirmed works (this turned out out be DIRTY STORY and Dan Savage’s MIRACLE!). But HEDDA GABLER had distinct possibilities, especially after I saw Marya Sea Kaminski’s Bonnie-and-Clyde-influenced theatre piece, RIDDLED, at the Hugo House back in June. She is mesmerizing, beautiful, with a face that opens up with joy and anticipation or draws in on itself with disappointment, fear, anger, or all of the above. Her eyes widen, then narrow; her mouth splits into a dazzling smile, then pulls tight into a bitter line, like a buttonhole stitched with black thread. A chameleon’s face.

Intiman’s HEDDA GABLER is like a huge table-cut emerald; sharp-cornered, the polished surface turns one way to reflect light back at you, turns another to open up its richly colored depths. Like the emerald, it is not unflawed, but it is still something to behold. The murky language of a previous century has been cut to the bone, perhaps not all of it necessary, but it moves more swiftly than I had anticipated. Our lives seem to turn on one moment, it seems to tell us. A world can change in 48 hours. A lost notebook, a misplaced gun, a night’s drinking with the boys, it can change everything. The things which you could or should have said or done, the pages you burned or did not burn, the truths you did not say. This is life, all the turns you made or did not make leading you, inevitably, to the end…

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