The acclaimed new staging of Ibsen's classic, Hedda Gabler—which has been praised in stagings in Sag Harbor, Williamstown and Boston—will officially open on Oct. 4, after previews from Sept. 19 at the Ambassador Theatre.
Kate Burton is the Norse gal with a gripe and a gun. Under Nicholas Martin's direction, she is trapped and frustrated by the bourgeois world into which she finds herself married. Populating that world are the likes of her ineffectual, academic husband Tesman (Michael Emerson) and the devilish Judge Brack (Harris Yulin). Rounding out the cast are David Lansbury, Maria Cellario, Jennifer Van Dyck and Angela Thornton. Hedda has been adapted by Jon Robin Baitz.
Hedda comes off a much-ballyhooed run in Boston, where it opened Jan. 3 to rosy reviews from the usually tough Boston Globe and Boston Herald. The show began life at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Producing Hedda Gabler on Broadway are Randall L. Wreghitt, Harriet Newman Leve, Gallin Productions and USA Ostar Theatricals, in association with Bay Street Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company and Williamstown Theatre Festival, with Jennifer Manocherian, Mary Lu Roffe, Cheryl Wiesenfeld and Temple Gill serving as associate producers. Performances begin Sept. 19.
* Kate Burton is trying her hand at one of the most celebrated and oft performed female dramatic leads in the history of the theatre. Written in 1890, the play had its American debut in 1892. The last hundred years or so are filled with legendary Heddas. The famed Italian actress Eleanora Duse played the part in London. The Russian Alla Nazimova, renowned for her work in Ibsen's dramas, made her New York debut on Nov. 13, 1906, in Hedda Gabler. The performance was seen by and influenced Eva LaGallienne, who years later, at her own Civic Repertory Theatre, essayed what is probably the most acclaimed Hedda of the 20th Century.
Broadway's Hedda comes at the same time the Ibsen Series at Off Broadway's Century Center for the Performing Arts has chosen to stage the classic. That production runs Oct. 9-28.
As reported earlier by PBOL, Hedda had wanted to open on Broadway this past spring, but opted for a fall 2001 bow instead. "Initially, we were hoping we'd finish up here and literally come in [to New York] at the beginning of February," Burton told Playbill On-Line (Jan. 5). A lack of available Broadway theatres, however, threw a wrench into that timetable. "The fall is looking more and more like a wonderful time," said Burton. "When we do it we want to do it right. We want to do it with enough lead time." (A summer run was not feasible, since Burton spends the season with her husband, Michael Richie, producer of the June-to- September Williamstown Theatre Festival.)
Speaking to PBOL, Burton said, "I think that [Hedda] is truly a product of her time. One of the things that becomes more and more apparent to me as I work on her is the kind of cage she creates for herself, which is she wants to live this life of passion and courage and intensity, but in fact she will not go outside a strict set of mores. She created a completely unbendable set of rules for herself, yet she tried to bend them and realizes she can't and that does her in. She has more life in her than ten people and that's what makes her so compelling to work on.
"I've made a very specific decision playing her, in that I think she is pregnant. There are so many references to it in the play. And certainly there are people who would wish to not play her pregnant. I just feel she is, and I feel so much of her behavior is that of a pregnant woman of about four months. All those reference to "Oh, she filled out during her trip," mentioned about three or four times in the first half hour of the play. And, quite frankly, it's a more interesting way to play it."
Actress Burton was last seen on the New York stage in Brian Friel's Give Me Your Answer, Do!. Adaptor Baitz also penned Three Hotels and Mizlansky/Zilinsky. Director Martin staged the Off Broadway hits Fully Committed and Full Gallop. Author Ibsen also wrote A Doll's House and When We Dead Awaken.
For tickets ($30-$70) and information on Hedda Gabler at the Ambassador Theatre, 219 West 49th St., call (212) 239-6200.