Ibsen's destructive protagonist the original desperate housewife has caused many a quandary for actresses, directors and translators. Still, given the talent onstage and off, it's surprising that this Roundabout Theatre revival is so flat and ill conceived. Whether you see the titular character a 19th-century newlywed unable to cope with housewifely confines as societal victim or vindictive shrew, she has to be more than the bored, bratty bride she becomes at the hands of the usually enchanting Mary-Louise Parker.
Her gentle, understated approach generally an asset in contemporary roles such as her Tony-winning turn in Proof renders Hedda too casual and laid-back, not a destructive, pistol-packing femme fatale who'd drive her former lover, Ejlert Lψvborg (Paul Sparks), to his death rather than see him find success and happiness without her.
Ian Rickson's production though it makes the case for gun control and always backing up your work suffers from a malaise akin to that of Hedda's. Even the versatile Michael Cerveris, compelling in early scenes, can't muster up the verve to bring three-dimensional life to Hedda's ineffectual husband, Tesman. Sparks, except for his final confrontation with Hedda, is terribly restrained, and his scenes with Ana Reeder's Thea play like bad soap opera.
Christopher Shinn's translation, which aims to be contemporary, lacks nuance and doesnt come across as especially of these times, aside from certain dialogue eccentricities.
How do you solve a problem like Hedda? There's no easy recipe, but you have to approach the play as if something important like her life was at stake.
By DIANE SNYDER
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Mary-Louise Parker, Michael Cerveris, Paul Sparks, Peter Stormare, Lois Markle, Ana Reeder, Helen Carey
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036