Saturday, August 8, 2015

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HEDDA GABLER • St. Louis Shakespeare

Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama, “Hedda Gabler,” premiered in 1891, but Jeff Whitty’s 2012 comedy picks up where Ibsen’s left off, with Hedda (Emily Baker), just having put a bullet in her head, waking up in a messy limbo of sorts on the Cul de Sac Of The Tragic Heroines. She, along with Gone With The Wind’s house slave Mammy (Jeanitta Perkins), and several other theatrical, film and television figures of note, are doomed to repeatedly play out the patterns their creators have given them, unable to re-write their own destinies. Pulling off the right tone for this kind of play is tricky, but under the sharp direction of St. Louis Shakespeare’s new artistic director, Suki Peters, and the leading performances of a fiercely engaging Baker and a quietly heroic Perkins and strong supporting players, this production soars.

Jeanitta Perkins (Mammy),
Emily Baker (Hedda Gabler)
and Carl Overly, Jr. (Patrick).
Photo credit: Kim Carlson
Hedda, a desperate housewife if ever there was one, learns from her attentive husband George Tesman (Dave Cooperstein), that she, and many others, are stuck in a purgatorial existence, and can only be released once their popularity has faded into obscurity. Well, Hedda’s not having any of it, so she sets off with Mammy, used to serving temperamental white folks, in a search for the “furnace of creation,” where she might have a chance to change the course of her fate. Hedda and Mammy are joined in this trippy abyss by a theatrically tragic Medea (Lindsay Gingrich), who invokes thunder whenever she speaks, two late 60’s self loving/hating cinema queens on the cusp of gay liberation, Steven and Patrick (Maxwell Knocke and Carl Overly, Jr.), and a “Woman in Pink” (Patience Davis) who resembles a 70’s era Pam Grier, blaxploitation type diva.

Baker, who has shown her knack for nailing 19th century women restricted by social norms before (St. Louis Actors' Studio’s 2014 production of “The Awakening”), gets to mix that in with her comedic skills, and Perkins has an engaging presence, whether she’s washing laundry or enjoying a brief new persona as an empowered woman of color.
Carl Overly, Jr. (Patrick) and Maxwell Knocke (Steven).
Photo credit: Kim Carlson
Overly and Knocke clearly bring the party wherever they go, and Gingrich and Davis have great turns in multiple roles. Ben Ritchie holds your attention hardly doing a thing as a pensive Eilert Lovborg, Hedda’s ex-lover, along with an appearance as Jesus, and Cooperstein slides perfectly into the role of Hedda’s academic husband. The creative contributions drive the eye right where the action is, and JC Krajicek’s wonderful costumes include a wide range of styles.

Ben Ritchie (Jesus) and Jeanitta Perkins (Mammy).
Photo credit: Kim Carlson
With a point to make about enduring stereotypes and popular culture, chock full of cameos from everyone from Prince Hamlet and Lady Macbeth to Little Orphan Annie, St. Louis Shakespeare’s production is well worth checking out. It’s only up for one more day.


THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF HEDDA GABLER

Written by Jeff Whitty  
Directed by Suki Peters 
Ivory Theatre, 7620 Michigan Ave.
through August 9 | tickets: $15 - $20
Performances Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm

Lindsay Gingrich (Medea) and Emily Baker (Hedda Gabler).
Photo credit: Kim Carlson
Cast:
Emily Baker (Hedda Gabler), Jeanitta Perkins (Mammy), Dave Cooperstein (George Tesman and others), Maxwell Knocke (Steven and others), Carl Overly, Jr. (Patrick and others), Ben Ritchie (Eilert Lovborg and others), Patience Davis (Woman in Pink and others) and Lindsay Gingrich (Medea and others).

Creative:
Scenic design/scenic paint by Jason Townes; costume design by JC Krajicek; sound design by Jeff Roberts; lighting design by Steve Miller; prop master, Linda Lawson; vocal coach, Jamie Lynn Eros; board operator, Keller Ryan; set construction, Erik Kuhn, Maxwell Knocke, Linda Lawson and Joe Wittwer; production manager, Maxwell Knocke; technical director, Erik Kuhn; stage manager, Abby Lampe; Flossie/assistant stage manager, Katie Robinson; Musical Jesus/assistant stage manager, Ted Drury; costume assistant, Taylor Donham.

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