DSU’s ‘Hedda Gabler’ dramatic, juicy

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Having been interpreted in many forms over the last 120 years all around the world, this version of “Hedda Gabler” was nothing short of the makings of an excellent 18th century “Gossip Girl.” 

Director Michael Harding, an associate professor of theater, created a story of what can happen when a woman has too much time on her hands and is surrounded by people she has an intense history with.

Comprised of a cast of seven actors and a one-room set, this production is drenched with drama and secrets. The first act was a slow start, but once all the characters were introduced and the main concept conveyed, it developed into a tragic story of loneliness and relationship triangles. Something of a dark comedy arose from the actors’ delivery and timing of their lines.

The chemistry between Hedda, played by Justine Davis, a junior theater major from Draper, and Judge Brack, played by Sean Bronsema, a freshman theater major from Cedar City, was especially gripping. The exchange of witty banter and the subtle nature of their argumentative conversations was captivating.

It was clear that this play is well known to those who are in it, even when it’s a lesser-known story to the audience.

“We started rehearsals back in mid-October,” Harding said. “Basically we rehearsed the play almost as a radio drama so we could get a sense of the rhythm of the characters, how they spoke to each other, and also get a notion of the psychological underpinnings of everything.”

Written in 1890 by Norwegian play writer Henrik Ibsen, “Hedda Gabler” is about a woman who is bored after returning home from a six-month honeymoon trip abroad, during which she was also lonely. Her husband, George Tesman, played by Stephen Walters, a junior theater major from Santa Ana, Calif., is a scholarly man who is passionate and focused on his studies. When a few old colleagues and school friends also come back into town, Hedda jumps at the chance to have some fun with people’s lives and affairs.

“One of the reasons that I definitely wanted to do [‘Hedda Gabler’] was because she’s one of those characters that you see her do these vicious things, but you actually really like her,” Harding said.

The plot is driven by relationships, revenge and fear of the loneliness that Hedda tries to escape. The actions of the characters may seem preposterous at times, but when we look at our own lives and general human behavior, we all act that way to some degree. Human beings are complicated but fluctuate with emotions.

The characters in “Hedda Gabler” amplify humanity to the climax of vulnerability and emotion.

“It’s a beautiful story,” said Tiffany Herzog, a sophomore theater major from Brigham City and stage manager for the play. “It’s incredibly powerful. It’s not a play that people know very often … It’s about people who were seen as these high society, posh people, but they are so human and so carnal, and everyone’s just sort of that to their core.”

“Hedda Gabler” is not the most popular play, but you shouldn’t let the recognition of a show determine whether you go see it. Go see this play. It is a prime example of a beautiful tragedy.  

“I think some fun energy had been brought to the table with it, some interesting aspects that you usually wouldn’t find in an Ibsen play,” Walters said. “A lot of Ibsen is usually played really boring, and this is anything but.”

“Hedda Gabler” is showing until Saturday at the Eccles Black Box Theater and again Feb. 4-8 at Dixie State University. 

Tickets are available online at dsutix.com or at the box office before showings.