Have you seen the movie Mean Girls (2004) starring Lindsay Lohan? Well, I see Hedda Gabler as a “mean girl” of the 19th century. She is the daughter of the wealthy and powerful General Gabler, entertained with horseback riding and pistols, courted by every eligible man in the county, and trained in the politics of the dinner party. She lies, manipulates, and uses all those around her. In this play Ibsen attempts to reveal the underlying reasons for her misbehavior.
As the play begins, Hedda is horrified to find herself married to a middle class History professor and looking forward to a life of service to her husband and (potential) children. She longs to have the same power as her male counterparts. While the men debate big ideas, drink, explore their sexuality, and take credit for their accomplishments, the female characters each find themselves in a life of service. Hedda discovers that although she is the most intelligent and competent person in her world, she is the least in control of her life.
I think audiences are challenged by this play largely because Hedda is so “mean” and we are less likely to identify with a character that acts outside of social and moral boundaries. I hope that while you experience this production you are able to look past her petty actions and see the world from Hedda’s eyes.