Review by Tulis McCall
4 Mar 2010
This is just the most ridiculous play. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. Not a lick. And it requires that the viewer is familiar with the plot of Hedda Gabler, so there is homework before the lights go down.
The setting is the bachelor party thrown for George Tesman (Josh Barrett), Hedda Gabler’s new husband, by Judge Brack (Alexander Alioto). At the party is Eilert Lovborg (Michael Crane), a scholar and rival of Tesman both professionally and in matters of the heart. Lovborg has with him a manuscript he has written that focuses on the civilization of the future. Tesman has seen a portion of the manuscript and disagrees with Lovborg on the bleak future he predicts. The two are in the study while the bachelor party is going on outside the door. Tesman is avoiding the party so that he can duck questions about his marriage to Hedda, which has gotten off to a rocky start. Best not to discuss that in public. Better to stay secluded with Lovborg and debate the future.
Lovborg reads from his book – well we don’t hear it, we just see him miming the action and dropping the read pages on the floor – and Tesman experiences some sort of time travel. He sees a young woman (Crystal Finn) circa 2010 who has a screaming baby nearby. She is smoking and babbling. Lovborg stops reading, and we return to the study. Enter Brack, slightly perturbed that the guest of honor is choosing not to make an appearance, and there is talk of the female entertainment that is soon to appear. While this discussion is going on, by the by, these actors walk over the pages of the invaluable manuscript without notice. The audience notices, but the actors don’t. Example of Bad Directing 101.
More discussion ensues. More reading of the manuscript. More pages hit the floor. Time moves back and forth. The conversation gets testy as Tesman is required to speak of his wedding night to the party-goers who have entered the room as invisible people and sit in the audience. The babbling woman appears and vanished. Lovborg gets drunk on his 6th glass of wine in less than an hour. A bottle of contemporary whiskey appears along with red plastic cups. Lovborg leaves without the manuscript. The babbling woman turns into Hedda Gabler briefly then returns to the present where she greets her prodigal mate (Josh Barrett) who has returned to claim her and his child.
There is hardly a way to review this mystery piece because so much time was spent just trying to connect those darn dots. And this is certainly not a boring production because you are kept on your toes in wonder for the entire 75 minutes. The acting is good enough but not so good that it outshines what passes for a plot. The dialogue chugs along like a small boat with an outboard motor. What the river is and where it is headed, however, remains a mystery.
The program notes reveal that Sam Marks is now at work on a screenplay which is being produced by Ira Glass and is based on an episode of This American Life. Perhaps with a beginning, middle and end clearly laid out he will fare better.