Mary-Louise Parker Takes Aim as Broadway's Hedda Gabler, Opening Jan. 25

By Kenneth Jones
25 Jan 2009

Mary-Louise Parker and Paul Sparks
Mary-Louise Parker and Paul Sparks
Photo by Nigel Parry

Hedda Gabler, the classic tale of an unhappily married woman in 1880s Norway, gets a fresh approach on Broadway with Christopher Shinn's new adaptation — starring Mary-Louise Parker — opening Jan. 25 after previews from Jan. 6.

Tony Award winner Parker (Proof) is the title character (who has an affection for pistols) of the 1890 drama. Shinn is the acclaimed playwright of Dying City (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Four, On the Mountain, Other People, The Coming World, What Didn't Happen, Where Do We Live and The Sleepers.

"People have been asking me to do this play for quite a long time," Parker told Playbilll magazine, "and it never quite felt like the right time. I never felt inspired by it. I was leaning toward [Ibsen's] Doll's House for a while. And then [Roundabout Theatre Company artistic director] Todd Haimes suggested [director] Ian Rickson. Things just sort of snowballed after that."

Rickson directed the acclaimed 2008 Broadway production of The Seagull, first seen in London.



The company at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre also includes Swedish-born actor Peter Stormare, making his Broadway debut, as venal Judge Brack; Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris (Assassins, Sweeney Todd, Road Show, The Who's Tommy) as Hedda's dry professor-husband Jorgen Tesman; Paul Sparks (of Broadway's Take Me Out and Off-Broadway's Lady, Pumpgirl, Essential Self Defense and Finer Noble Gases) as Ejlert Lovborg; Lois Markle (Broadway's True West, The Grapes of Wrath, national tour of Three Tall Women) as maid Berte; Ana Reeder (Broadway's Top Girls, Sight Unseen) as Mrs. Thea Elvsted; and Helen Carey (a Tony nominee for Roundabout's London Assurance) as Miss Juliane Tesman, Tesman's aunt.

According to Roundabout, in "this new interpretation of Henrik Ibsen's modern classic," Hedda is "a woman of dangerous independence restrained by a conventional marriage. [She] indulges in a cruel game, amusing herself with the misfortune she inflicts on those around her. As Hedda struggles to balance her wild desires against her chosen life, she sets into motion a manic chain of events that bring her story to a chilling end."

Parker, a Tony nominee for Reckless, and Golden Globe Award-winning star of TV's "Weeds," explained to Playbill, "Ian and I want it to not have a classical feeling to it, where the first ten minutes are all exposition with people bustling around holding oil lamps and moving footstools. All those things may happen, but hopefully they happen in a contemporary way. And that doesn't mean that I feel the characters should be holding cell phones. You just want to infuse a classical play with something new. I like the idea of trying to make it a play where, if someone was dragged to it by their wife or something, they wouldn't feel like they were watching an old play, and felt engaged by it. It was vivid and bracing when Ibsen did it, and I think it should be all those things now."

*

Swedish-born actor-director Stormare recently wrapped production on feature films "The Killing Room" with Chloe Sevigny, "Straight Edge, Insanitarium" for Screen Gems, and "Horsemen" for Mandate Pictures. He can be seen opposite Willem Dafoe in "Anamorph" and "Witless Protection" with Larry the Cable Guy, which were both released this year. He also starred in "Premonition" with Sandra Bullock, "Unknown," "The Brothers Grimm" opposite Matt Damon, "Constantine" with Keanu Reeves and "Birth" with Nicole Kidman. Stormare starred as John Abruzzi on the first season of the hit Fox television drama "Prison Break." He began his acting career in his native land at the Royal National Theater of Sweden under the direction of the legendary Ingmar Bergman where he performed leading roles in Long Day's Journey Into Night, Miss Julie, King Lear and Hamlet.

The design team includes Hildegard Bechtler (sets), Ann Roth (costumes), Natasha Katz (lights), John Gromada (sound), Peter Owen (wigs), Ivana Primorac (makeup and hair design). The literal translation of the play is by Anne-Charlotte Harvey. James FitzSimmons is production stage manager. Bryce McDonald is stage manager. Original music is by PJ Harvey.

The company also includes understudies Opal Alladin, Peter Bradbury, Lucy Martin and Ray Virta.

Roundabout Theatre Company has produced Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (1994, Broadway), An Enemy of the People (1985), The Master Builder (1983), Hedda Gabler (1981), Little Eyolf (1979), John Gabriel Borkman (1976), Rosmersholm (1974) and The Master Builder (1971).

Adaptor Shinn was born in Hartford, CT, and lives in New York. His plays have been premiered by the Royal Court, Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, the Vineyard Theatre, South Coast Rep, and Soho Theatre. He is a winner of an Obie Award in Playwriting, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting. He has received grants from the NEA/TCG Residency Program and the Peter S. Reed Foundation, and he is recipient of the Robert S. Chesley Award. He teaches playwriting at the New School for Drama.

Ticket prices range from $66.50 to $111.50.

For tickets, visit the American Airlines box office (227 West 42nd Street) or call Roundabout Ticket Services at (212)719-1300 or visit www.roundabouttheatre.org.

For more information, visit heddaonbroadway.com.

*

Performances are currently scheduled through March 29.