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Thursday, May 27, 2010


Ingrid Bergman might have been born to play Ibsen’s famously difficult , revenge-minded wife. Who else could keep an audience tucked in her pocket while charting fathoms of (self)destructive behavior? Alas, this ruthlessly cut 75 minute tv version is all we have of her in the role. (Bergman must have known how much was missed here since she quickly worked up a full-length production in Paris.) The shortened text, from Eva Le Gallienne’s blunt English translation, stresses incident, dramatic reversals & melodrama over Ibsen’s larger concerns of character & society; not an entirely bad trade-off, it certainly flies by! And if the entire cast is a good decade or two older than they should be, this is only problematic for Trevor Howard’s alcoholic intellectual who looks too old to seem ruined before his time. (Howard seems ruined right on time.) As Hedda’s underachieving husband, Michael Redgrave uses his height & symmetrical handsomeness to reinforce the facade Hedda hoped might appease her needs. And perhaps if she hadn’t become pregnant, it might have. Best of all is Ralph Richardson as the amoral sexual opportunist, improvidently blessed by Hedda’s predicament. The production isn’t much more than a live tv kinescope, but it’s all we have of this amazing cast in Ibsen’s amazing play. What might we give to have this much of Duse, Nazimova or Irene Worth in the role?

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