Thursday, March 26, 2009

Henri Gabler

Hedda Gabler is arguably theatre's most enigmatic classic character, but it's generally agreed that her cruelty and destructiveness are partly a rebellion against the societal constrictions placed on her. In Exigent Theatre's modern-day, gender-changed adaptation the character, now Henri, doesn't seem to have societal constrictions: he's a famous member of the gay cultural elite, a blogger whose popularity rivals The Huffington Post and whose recent gay marriage is entirely state legal. The playwright (Alexander Burns) scores best when he steers the play into baldly political territory - there's an especially provocative speech in which one character vows to live "old school" and avoid marriage entirely - but he's constricted by a faithfulness to the blueprint of Ibsen's play that sometimes obscures the message of his adaptation. Additionally there are some odd choices that one doesn't know how to interpret- one might expect the Lovborg character to be a passionate free thinking modern artist rather than the moeneyed square in a suit that he is here, for instance. Nonetheless, there is a good deal of wicked fun in this "queer" revision and an exceptional performance - by Vince Nappo, playing the role based on Tesman - among some very good ones. Nappo, brilliant last Summer in Other Bodies at The Fringe, is the kind of actor who seems to make nothing but intelligent choices in his approach to a character and who fills up every moment on stage.

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