Hedda Gabler, splayed out on the couch with a bullet through her head, wakes from her final scene.
“Did I miss?” she asks. Then, seeing husband Tesman: “Am I in hell?
Well, not quite, but she and many other fictional/historical/mythological characters will flit through Jeff Whitty’s witty “The Further Adventures Of Hedda Gabler” on their way to ... well, I’m getting ahead of myself.
The question at hand for Whitty, one of the wacky team who produced “Avenue Q,” is what happens to fictional characters when you finish the book. Are they condemned to repeat their scripted antics over and over each time a new person reads, or at some point do they get to die and rest in peace?
Diversionary Theatre presents the wild and woolly “Further Adventures” through April 28, with Matt McGrath in the director’s chair.
Witty uses Ibsen’s Hedda to frame the story. You remember how she backs herself into a corner emotionally and socially, doesn’t like the feeling and uses her father’s pistol to escape.
Now she finds that she has to relive that fate with every new reader or viewer, and she doesn’t like it. She’s tired of it, and like Hedda (oh wait, she is Hedda) she just wants to die one last time. Or, better, to change her fate.
Hedda (Jacque Wilke) really thinks she’s in the looney bin when an unknown black woman enters and Tesman (Andrew Oswald) tells her she’s “an employee” called Mammy (yes, that one) and asks her to clean up.
Mammy (Yolanda Franklin) mutters (complains?) “I tell you, if it’s not enough cleanin’ up her dad-blame mess every time she decides to try comin’ home to Jesus, I also gotta be all friendly like we don’t know who each other is,” then pulls out a plastic spray bottle of “Shout!” and starts to work on the bloodstain.
Medea (Shana Wride) enters (“Please! Don’t mention the children!”) and tells Hedda they are in the “Cul-de-Sac of the Tragic Women.”
But when Medea mentions “The Furnace” where all fictional characters are invented, she decides to go there and give Mr. Henrik Ibsen a piece of her mind.
There’s little rhyme or reason to the hijinks, but by the time 32 characters have paraded through, you’ll have laughed so hard at the cleverness of the script that you aren’t likely to care.
Wilke and Oswald are the perfect mismatched spouses, the dull academic Tesman no match for Hedda’s volatility and desire for excitement.
Franklin is a total hoot as Mammy and another surprising character that I won’t mention here.
The other actors play several roles each. Wride is a stitch as Medea, but just as funny as Cassandra, Little Orphan Annie, Dorothy Gale and a few others.
Dangerfield G. Moore has a wonderful time with Hedda’s passion (and the man she must destroy) Eilert Lovborg, Judge Brack, Jesus, the chainsaw killer and a few others.
Luke Jacobs and Tony Houck play gays Patrick and Steven, right out of the “Boys in the Band” sensibility (if not using their names) and a few others with panache.
Lynae DePriest is fun to watch as a whole slew of women, including a modern flapper, the operatic Tosca and Chekhov’s Masha.
McGrath keeps the action moving (no small feat) and the actors keep the characters amusing.
Fasten your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen. You’re in for a wild ride.
“The Further Adventures Of Hedda Gabler” plays through April 28 at 4545 Park Blvd.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm.
Tickets: (619) 220-0097 or HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.