Our little improvisations all too often have their consequences, and after six seasons the improvisation of boldly attempting new twists on theatre as we know it in Harford County is sadly coming to an end. Concluding its sixth season with Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, BOOM Theatre Company goes out with a bang, closing the doors permanently on the company after getting underway in 2011. In this final performance, directed by Joshua Fletcher, the company says goodbye to its faithful followers and theatergoers of Harford County, daring to have the courage to live as they leave behind this memorable and lasting theatrical legacy.
Fletcher, taking the show full in hand for all the design elements— including set layout with the decadent furnishings designed to represent the affluence of the Tesman household— used simple lighting and sound effects to keep the focus on Hedda and her story. Costumes were era appropriate, albeit ill-fitted at times, and allowed for each individual to more readily sink beneath the surface of their character. Fletcher’s pacing of the production was remarkable, considering how heavy and dull portions of Ibsen’s work can be. The only major drawback of the production seems to be the disconnect that certain performers have with the temporal allocation of the piece. While Hedda, Aunt Julie, Judge Brack, and to lesser extents Eilert Lovborg, feel as if they are all playing in the same era and connecting on the same emotional level, George Tesman (Brad Mascari) and Thea Elvsted (Tricia Ragan) feel as if they are playing in a modern version of Hedda Gabler. Both Mascari and Ragan have a strong emotional connection to their characters and develop deep, meaningful moments with others when they interact— especially as far as Ragan is concerned when it comes to appearing in scenes with Hedda— but the pair approach the text with modern patois and cadence, which sound clunky and somewhat contrived over Ibsen’s carefully structured dialogue.
Berta (Samantha Allen) who is in the performance but briefly, is attached to neither the modern version in which Mscari and Ragan are playing nor the archaic time period in which the rest of the cast are playing. Her part is brief but the little hints of frustration and sarcasm with which she infuses her lines are worth noting. Leif McCurry, playing the reformed rogue Eilert Lovborg, maintains par for the course though his arrival and introduction into the scene work comes rather late. There are moments where McCurry dabbles into this strangely modern version of the performance, his patterns of speech drifting into the laziness of the 21st century, but on the whole he maintains a keen sense of his characters’ struggles in relation to when the play is set. Though his final scene with Hedda is somewhat lacking in conviction, though that may simply be because the actress playing Hedda blows him so far out of the water that there is little hope of recovery, he manages to hold his own against hurricane Hedda for most of the production.
Removed from time as well, though not in a distracting fashion, Anthony Chanov approaches Judge Brack with an oily unction, slipping over the character’s seedy nature with a vulture’s voice. Ready to take full advantage of the situation, Chanov comports himself and carries his character with just a hint of aristocracy and gentility so as to hide his proper intentions. Seedy and swarthy, Chanov makes the subtle flirtations with Hedda simmer and smolder as they flirt shamelessly through their subtext with one another.
Almost as scarce as the maid, and conceptualized as just as much a cameo character, Jenny Hasselbusch is a delight playing the dotty Aunt Julie. Characterized by her bubbly nature, which is exceedingly effervescent especially when she’s around Hedda, Hasselbusch lives lively in the moment all during her first act appearances. Showcasing her versatility as a performer, when Hasselbusch’s character returns for the second act, she is somber, sullen, and heavy-hearted due to circumstances wrapped up in the plot. The contrast between how she portrays the lively character is stark, an air of death sunk into her features, her posture, even her tone of voice, making a shocking juxtaposition between Aunt Julie before and Aunt Julie after.
Leading the charge and carrying the show as the titular character, Jordan Wyandt is stellar as Hedda Tesman. Vigorous, spontaneous, and shining, Wyandt sets the character on edge, freezing her over with a remote aristocracy that is aloof and untouchable. The austerity and clinical sterility that Wyandt brings to Hedda pairs well with the bristling sarcasm and biting wit that she imbues into her line delivery. Serving as the show’s master manipulator twisting the strings of the other characters like a macabre marionettetress, she serves her own needs well, amusing herself with the darkness and black humors there are to be had. There are even moments where Wyandt comes dangerously close to humanizing the character of Hedda, almost making the audience care for her predicament, but at the last possible second she retreats to the deliciously comfortable reality of her sarcastic snap and frigid exterior, making the show’s final moments that much more rewarding.
Say farewell to BOOM Theatre Company, find the courage and truly live, carrying on the spark and spirit of theatre and creativity that they have inspired in Harford County for the last half dozen seasons.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with one intermission
Hedda Gabler plays through May 20, 2017 at BOOM Theatre Company at the Unitarian Universalists of Fallston— 1127 Old Fallston Road in Fallston, MD. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance online.