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A CurtainUp Review
Speed Hedda
Everything I touch turns to horseshit in my hands
--- Hedda
Robert Prior and his troupe known as Fabulous Monsters have been reinventing the classics for Los Angeles theater goers for more than half a dozen years. Now, New Yorkers have two weeks to see Prior and his "Monsters" in a fabulously inventive adaptation of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler. It's the third production of the more than hundred year old play of the New York season. It's also the most unusual.

Except for Speed Hedda's inelegant sumup of her final descent into suicidal desperation quoted above, Robert Prior has managed to keep all of Ibsen's best lines and adhere to the basic plot with amazing fidelity. If the all-male cast, headed by a Hedda who is a perpetually high on amphetamines, Mambo mad 60s suburbanite sounds like high camp, well, so it is. But Mr. Prior is a true Ibsen aficionado who knows how to have his fun and at the same time pay tribute to the playwright' literary creation. The result is a deliciously entertaining spoof, or, if you will, a spoof-omage. And, as Prior goes over the top without going totally off the plot track, Mark Brey is a Hedda who is not only archly comic but touching - yes, touching, really! Of all the performers I've seen in this open-to-many interpretations role, Brey's tall, angular blonde will rank high in my theatrical memory book.

The choice of the early 60s as a time frame proves to be quite apt for this new exploration of what makes Hedda Gabler tick. This period of Camelot and lingering 50s conformity was also an all-time high for the prescription of amphetamines. It thus makes perfect sense that our first glimpse of this updated anti-heroine has her on a plane headed home from her boring honeymoon, a face wreathed in disdain for her dull husband George (Jay Smith) and with a chunky black pillbox perched on her neat blonde hair.

The story is framed within the format of a black and white movie, complete with opening and closing credits on an overhead screen. The film device enables us to catch glimpses of Hedda shooting up when she's out of the family parlor and makes it possible for George and Hedda's former flame, Eliot Lovborg, both played by Jay Smith, to make simultaneous appearances - one on screen and one on stage. Another amusing case of double role playing has Tim Dunaway switching between the well-meaning meddling Auntie Juju (a twist on Aunt Julia) to the noble Thea - Hedda's schoolmate and Lovborg's lover and muse.

Judge Brock (Chris Wells), is now a doctor. Besides lusting after Hedda he keeps her (and himself) high with pharmaceutical goodies stashed in his ever handy little back bag.

Two members of the expert ensemble who contribute greatly without ever saying a word are two Men in Black (Matthew Helton and Jacob Higgins). They not only handle a variety of props but, as needed, actually become props themselves. The staging generally is deceptively simple - a few chairs, a bench, a portable barbecue grill for the famous burning of Lovaborg's manuscript, and a screened off alcove with a high fi system to take the place of the traditional off-stage room where Hedda occasionally retreats to play the piano or with her father's pistols.

The costumes, dances, videography, lighting and sound design are impeccable. All in all, Hedda's descent into oblivion is a high-speed, highly enjoyable pistol packing production you won't soon forget.

Hedda Gabler--Jon Robin Baitz adaptation (Berkshires and Broadway)
Hedda Gabler a classic adaptation as part of the Century Center Ibsen series.

Speed Hedda
Based upon the play Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
Adapted and Directed by Robert A. Prior
Cast: Hedda/ Mark Brey, George/Eliot Lovborg/ Jay Smith, Aunt Juju/Thea/ Tim Dunaway, Dr. Brock/Chris Wells, Berte, the maid/Robert Navarret, Man In Black/ Matthew Helton, Man In Black/ Jacob Higgins
Dances: Jessica Wallenfels
Set and Costume Design: Robert A. Prior
Lighting Design: Josh Epstein
Sound Design: John Zalewski
Videography: Rush Riddle & Marvin Solomon
Title Sequence and Graphic Designe Eric Handel/LMNOP
Photographer: Rob Nava Running Time: 80 minutes without itnermission
F irst Floor Theatre at La MaMa ETC, 74A East 4th St.
Thursday thru Sunday ~ 8PM & Sunday @ 2:30PM
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