But not enough. Parker’s Hedda inspires neither sympathy nor revulsion, even though, ideally, the character should invoke every feeling in between. Rickson has shaped the material so that the hapless humans who so annoy Hedda aren’t just average, dull, well-meaning people but hopeless drips, the sort of mouth-breathers everyone wants to avoid on the playground of life. When they say something stupid, as they invariably do, Parker’s Hedda responds either with an impatient eye roll or an attempt at a Jack Benny–style deadpan stare before lashing out with a trademark cutting remark.
The audience laughs, drawn into her extended inside joke instead of being horrified—and eventually moved—by its painful intricacy. This is Hedda as sarcastic, know-it-all teenager: Every line is a wink at the audience, the equivalent of saying, “You’d go nuts, too, if you had to be around these twerps.”
No one wants to see another fossilized Hedda Gabler. But you can’t modernize the material by making it jocular, as Rickson, fresh from his acclaimed production of The Seagull, has done here. Some of the performers seem to be straining against the production’s facile nature: Cerveris gives Jørgen a naked, unvarnished neediness that’s touching. But nothing in this Hedda Gabler haunted me as much as a comment overheard as we filed out of the theater—an approving remark on how “playful” the production was. He had a point: It’s not every day you get a chance to yuk it up with Henrik. —S.Z.