Theatre Review: Theatre UNB’s Hedda Gabler

Written by Sophie M. Lavoie on April 3, 2017

UNB student actors tackle a classic story by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Theatre UNB presented Hedda Gabler from March 29 to April 1st at Memorial Hall on UNB Campus.
This classic Henrik Ibsen play, first represented in Germany over a century ago, tells the sordid tale of treason and wounded pride that takes place in Norway. In the play, Hedda Gabler, now married to budding academic George Tesman, returns to Oslo after a six month honeymoon to settle down, but a past passionate affair with Eilert Lovborg comes back to haunt her.

Director Len Falkenstein’s drama 2170 class put on the play with just eight students, a tremendous feat since six students had acting roles in the play.

First year student Kate Aldacosta was spectacular in the lead role of Hedda, at once coy and condescending in her role as a bored housewife married for convenience rather than love. Aldacosta skillfully negotiated Hedda’s changes in humour as she manipulates and is manipulated by the different people around her, leading to her ultimate demise.

Aldacosta’s subtle performance was showcased thanks to Austin Thomas’ strong performance opposite her, in the role of her naïve and childlike husband. Aided by his boyish appearance, Thomas exuded the sincerity necessary to play the unknowing victim of Hedda’s behind-the-scenes maneuverings.

Students Haley Valera, as Thomas’ elderly aunt, and Ian Clark, as the judge, also had solid performances. Valera was very convincing as an older lady, especially with her raspy conversational inflections, while Clark, who ultimately blackmails Hedda, showed a realistic transformation from friend to villain. Garrett MacLaughlin, in the smaller role of the male servant Bertram, was also quite fitting.

Despite a few issues, actors Andrea Ramirez and Devin Rockwell showed much promise for future dramatic roles. As the genius Eilert Lovborg, Rockwell’s voice did not project enough in the large Memorial Hall at Saturday night’s performance to convince of his character’s passion and folly, but his physical presence on stage was noteworthy. Ramirez, in her role as Rockwell’s adulterous muse, Thea Elvsted, was respectable, but her eyes often seemed to be gazing offstage rather than being in the scene.

Costumes and sets were all very well done. Memorial Hall was transformed into an authentic household scenario, complete with a view out into a verdant garden. At Saturday night’s performance, there seemed to be a minor problem with the lighting transitions, but overall, the play was a genuine accomplishment. Director Len Falkenstein is to be applauded for putting on a production of such quality and bringing classical theatre to Fredericton audiences.

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