Monday, April 03, 2006

Tonight on a very special Oh, That Hedda!, Hugo Weaving guest stars as Hedda learns about the importance of Gun Safety.

Apologies (again) for not posting more frequently. The usual, too busy, yadaa yadda.

By coincidence, Kathy has had a history of getting me tickets to Hedda Gabler for my birthday. Four years ago it was to the Broadway show starring Kate Burton, and this past birthday it was tickets to the BAM show with Kate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving. We went a week ago last Friday, eager to see the show which had become the hottest ticket in town, especially after a glowing Times review.

We began the evening with some food at a new bistro near our house, and a bottle of wine. It’s always a danger for me to have a bit of wine before a Friday night event. By then I am often suffering from lack of sleep, so a glass or two will go straight to my head. As it did a bit that night.

We got to the show at the last minute (thinking it started at 8:00 and not at 7:30). The curtain rose and the play began. And several minutes into the show, a curious thing happened. The audience was laughing. And I got really confused.

For starters, the casting was strange. Hedda’s new husband looked like a goober, and played the role like he was in a Marx Brothers movie. Kate Blanchett was making goofy gestures, pointing out her disdain for her new husband with comedic conventions. Guffaws abounded. It was like no one had actually ever read the play.

Not being a theater expert I can’t criticize the director’s choice of staging Hedda Gabler as a Sitcom. Perhaps there is was some subtle jab at our contemporary culture in the irony of the story of a young woman destroying several lives, including her own, being played as a light farce. If so, it’s beyond me.

By the beginning of act four, things really got weird. Hugo Weaving, actually looking very Nordic under his acres of facial hair, stopped the accent he had been working on the entire time and reverted to Agent Smith of the Matrix. While everything started to go to hell in the play, I kept expecting him to start snarling, “ Mister Anderson…” And then the audience got confused as the laughs stopped, first when Hedda convinces her ex to shoot himself, and then when she blows her own head off. Not many laughs there.

It was like watching a ‘very special episode.’ The kind where a happy go lucky character has a life affirming event happen. WKRP started the whole thing with their Who Concert episode. It was noted at the time that there were only three laughs in the entire second half of the show. I guess on that mark, this Hedda scored better.