The year is 2011 and my college is doing our own production of the Henrik Ibsen classic tragedy, Hedda Gabler. I never read it in high school and this is my first time seeing it performed on the stage. For the last hour I’ve been stuck to my seat, captivated by the performance. In the show’s final moments, I am left with my mouth open as a gunshot rings, a piercing scream is heard, and the lights abrubtly fade to black. Show’s over. That’s it. What. The. Hell.
My most memorable moments with live theatre have come from shows that caused me to think a great deal, were wildly entertaining, and had really strong narratives. Hedda Gabler, in my opinion, is one of the most dramatic, complex, wildly entertaining shows yet. This may seem odd since, when the piece was first introduced in the late 1800s, it had horrible reviews. However, over time it grew on people.
Hedda Gabler tells the story of a not-quite young, very ambitious and controlling woman who enters a loveless marriage with the respectable but dull George Tesman to insure herself economic and social security. Completely driven to control any and everyone around her, Hedda finds the opportunity to wreck havoc on the lives of those closest to her.
When he wrote the play, Ibsen set out to do one thing; “What I principally wanted to do was to depict human beings, human emotions and human destinies upon a groundwork of certain social conditions and principles of the present day.”
Hedda does that. The play touches on human psychology and should be any trained actress’ dream to play such a dynamic, often hated character. It’s easy to want to play a hero, but playing a villain that people can also sympathize with by the end is a real challenge. Who do I think can do Miss Hedda justice? Viola Davis would without a doubt murder (pun intended) the role of Hedda Gabler. The Juilliard grad has shown us time and again that she’s a force to be reckoned with. She can be dark, as evidenced by her historic Emmy-winning portrayal of Annalise Keating on “How To Get Away With Murder.” She can be passionate, as we have seen in her film roles like “Doubt.” We also know she can be everything in between, as we’ve seen in her Tony Award-winning performance in Fences.
It takes a special kind of actress to pull a role like this off. That’s why the last time this show was on Broadway it didn’t do all that well. Viola has already broken down barriers in the TV world. I have no doubt that she’d shatter the glass ceiling on the Great White Way.