Thursday, July 12, 2012

Wellfleet's Harbor Stage Delivers

Yesterday Sven and I finally got to see Hedda Gabler at Wellfleet’s Harbor Stage. Going out at night is a big deal for busy innkeepers. It’s rare we do anything in the evening these days. But Wellfleet has a new theater, which I mention in my ebook Wellfleet, An Insider's Guide to Cape Cod's Trendiest Town. I was elated to attend my first Harbor Stage play and celebrated by putting on a long black dress.

“We visited Ibsen’s house in Norway, remember?” Sven said as I wrapped my polka-dot scarf around my neck. “You were angry, because it was closed.”

That was when I remembered, a beautiful manor house, shaped like a U. It was raining. Henrik Ibsen had lived there.

His play, singled out by the Harbor Stage Company as its first production, was an interesting choice, albeit not an easy one. Written in 1890, Hedda Gabler is Ibsen’s most performed play. There was a definite lightness to the Harbor Stage production, despite the intensity of the controlled emotions expressed by Brenda Withers in the main role. The costumes and set were amazing. The acting, top-notch throughout.

“When you put it into context, it's the ideas of that time.” Sven said afterwards. “The genius who was above everyone else but slightly coo-coo, in comparison with the rest of society.” He was referring to Ejlert Løvborg whose manuscript Hedda burns. Løvborg was played by Robert Kropf, who also directed.

The character that drew my attention was neurotic Hedda herself, the strong-willed woman who wants to live her life without the restrictions society imposes, but does not quite dare do so. Wikipedia says this role is regarded as “one of the most challenging and rewarding for an actress even in the present day.” Fingers twitching, Brenda Withers pulled it off. She became Hedda for me. Jonathan Fielding was also excellent as her husband. (The two actors stopped by Chez Sven a month ago, remember?)

Afterwards, Amanda Collins came on stage to invite the audience to attend the two other plays of the season. She mentioned that the ticket price was intentionally low – $20 – because the troop wants theater to remain accessible. The woman sitting next to me whispered that the last four performances of Hedda Gabler are already sold out. When we arrived, there were a dozen people in the foyer, hoping for seats. Word has gotten around about the quality of the production. This is success. Congratulations to the courageous actors of Harbor Stage. Good job!

Have you been to see Hedda Gabler? Did you enjoy the show?

7/15 Update: Check out another rave review for Harbor Stage in the Boston Globe.