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Thursday, February 26, 2009
Hedda Gabler: The Female Hamlet

Michael Cerveris, Christopher Shinn, Elisabeth Vincentelli

Hedda Gabler was first published in 1890 by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and since then has become a mainstay of Broadway, with a long list of accomplished actors taking turns playing the iconic role of Hedda, including, but not limited to, Eleanora Duse, Eva Le Gallienne, Anne Meacham, Ingrid Bergman, Jill Bennett, Janet Suzman, Kate Burton, Kate Mulgrew, Annette Bening, Judy Davis, Cate Blanchett, and now Mary Louise Parker in playwright Christopher Shinn’s latest adaption on Broadway.

The role of Hedda Gabler, ”often regarded as the female Hamlet” has been widely described as a difficult role to play, and has been interpreted in multitude of ways, with Hedda alternately being portrayed as a villain, a heroine, a feminist, or a victim. New York magazine provocatively headlined a recent article on Shinn’s production, “The Curse of Hedda Gabler: Mary-Louise Parker is the latest to tackle the iconic role. Has she, finally, gotten it right?” They continued:

“They all want to play Hedda, the female stars of stage and screen unjustly deprived of characters in the canon with real stature—despite the fact that she is a borderline psycho who resists our sympathy, and that Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler is an obstacle course over a minefield: creaky, exposition-laden, rife with the potential for unintentional laughs, bound by conventions of drawing-room realism.” concluded, “It is a masterful performance in every way and is met point-for-point by Ms. Parker. When these two actors [Ms. Parker and Michael Cerveris] are together on stage, the electricity is almost palpable.”

Critics and reviewers of Shinn’s Hedda have been wringing their hands and twisting their words in an attempt to offer some sort of edible guidance for their readers who are expecting such. Doing you one better, on March 2, 92YTribeca will host Tony-Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris, who plays Jorgen Tesman, the husband of Hedda, Obie-Award-winning playwright Christopher Shinn and the New York Post’s new chief theater critic, Elisabeth Vincentelli, to discuss the latest adaption of this play, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the production and creative process involved.

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