Sunday, June 5, 2016


JD Cullum, James Sutorius,
Nike Doukas and Kwana Martinez
Photo by Facet Photography
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Steven Robman's extensive directing career ranging from the national stage to television over four decades blossoms with dignity and panache at Antaeus in their unique approach to sharing the classics.  "Partner cast," Sunday's performance by "The Pistols" moves smoothly on Se Hyun Oh's gorgeous and well appointed set.  Henrik Ibsen's gothic story of love lost, deceit and greed in this version adapted by Andrew Upton strides deliberately through the paces of Hedda's domineering personality and the inevitable crash that follows.  Ibsen's nineteenth century play now set in the 1920s, past the influence of the Victorian period in which it was originally presented works well, even though the restrictions of thirty years previous may not so rigidly apply.  As Hedda, Nike Doukas, is crisp and sharp in tongue and presentation.  She strikes fear into her scholarly husband, Tesman (JD Cullum) and intimidates the household he has purchased for her with the help of the one man who would love to be the "third part" of a "triangle" partnership, Judge Brack (James Sutorius).  Back story touches on the affair that Hedda had with her first true love, Ejlert Løvborg (Ned Mochel).  The theme of death as art creeps in as the passion of Ejlert for Hedda erupts when he returns, having overcome issues with 'indulgences' and is ready to publish a brilliant book that references history from the future.  

Fine performances with crisp stage pictures engineered by Robman pick up the pace in the second act as Hedda manipulates Ejlert into a revival of his old feelings of inadequacy and yearning for the rekindling of his love for her. Exposition via the excellent Lynn Milgrim as Aunt Julle and Kwana Martinez's Thea Elvstead knit the fascinating tale of survival in the face of rejection and anticipated Scandinavian angst is nicely wrapped up with an equally touching turn by Karianne Flaathen as Berte, the household retainer.  Subtle lighting by Leigh Allen  and excellent costumes by Leah Piehl are thoroughly professional from head to toe.

Ibsen, perhaps a forerunner in the promotion of womens' rights and power, especially with his A Doll's House, is still dark and gloomy with occasional moments of mirth.  For scholars and adults who are interested in well honed performances and a nicely trimmed presentation, I highly recommend this final fling on the Antaeus NoHo stage as they prepare to move to new digs in Glendale come this fall.  

The Pistols cast is part of the 'partner casting' that affords more members of the company time on stage and gives audiences an opportunity to see two professional versions of the same play.  There are actually two other casts: The Generals and The Fjords, each of whom will give slightly different takes on the interpretation of the text. It is fascinating to see individual interpretations by the actors still under the experienced hand of Robman's very specific direction.  Well done! 

HEDDA GABLER by Henrik Ibsen  
Interpreted by Andrew Upton
Antaeus Theatre Company
5112 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Through July 2, 2016
Tickets and Information

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