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Theater Review: “Hedda Gabler”

Mhari Sandoval & Bruce Turk (on couch)

Ah, Hedda Gabler, the quintessential control freak. All she wants is all there is and then some. Or at least control over her life. What she gets is Jörgen Tesman, an ambitious but dull academic who promises a good living but an unexciting life.

When we meet Ibsen’s maddening creature, she and Tesman (Bruce Turk) are just returning from their wedding trip, which turned out to be a research trip for him, a bore for her. But at least he got his dissertation done, and is now expecting a professorial appointment.

But there are always those ghosts from the past. One day Hedda’s old high school classmate Mrs. Thea Elvsted (Mel House) shows up to tell Tesman that bad boy Eilert Lövborg (Richard Baird) – her former lover – is back in town, hawking his new book (in Tesman’s field). Immediately Hedda (Mhari Sandoval) fears that Eilert (also her former lover) may apply for the job Tesman wants. And – even worse – that he may prefer Thea to her. It’s time to plot their destruction.

David Ellenstein and his colleagues at North Coast Repertory Theatre give us a terrific “Hedda Gabler” through June 26 in a new translation by Anne-Charlotte Harvey.

The Tesmans return from their trip to find that Jörgen’s friend Judge Brack (Ray Chambers) has put them into debt by securing and furnishing a villa in their name. Now Tesman is really on the spot.

The best thing about this production is watching Hedda’s face and demeanor – so elegant, almost haughty at the beginning – crumble with her plans, until she is finally pushed to extreme behavior. Sandoval is masterful at portraying the self-destruction of this designing woman.

Baird continues his string of terrific performances as Eilert, the talented but alcoholic source of Hedda’s problems.

The rest of the cast is excellent as well, helped by an accessible translation and fairly snappy pacing that moves this four-act play along at a good clip.

Bravo to Marty Burnett for another perfect set, Elisa Benzoni for the fine costume design, Matt Novotny and Melanie Chen for the effective lighting and sound design.

Hedda Gabler will be a household name forever. Here’s your chance to see a fine new translation, wonderfully directed and acted.

The details

“Hedda Gabler” plays through June 26, 2016 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach.

Wednesday at 7pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm;  Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm

Tickets: (858) 481-1055 or www.northcoastrep.org