Mary-Louise Parker’s Hedda Gabler is More Hot Topic Than Henrik Ibsen


Since the first moment we met her in Fried Green Tomatoes, we’ve felt like Mary-Louise Parker could do no wrong; as she’s also a Tony, Emmy, and Golden Globe winner, we’ve always thought that most critics felt the same way — until we read the reviews for her latest turn in Hedda Gabler. The general consensus is that in this latest role Parker is having a rather misguided second adolescence. Remember that episode of Daria where she wins an essay contest and Val from Val Magazine visits her high school? They make her sound kind of like that. But worse. (For the record, we’ll always love you Nancy Botwin.)

A roundup of the reviews that made us giggle the most after the jump. If you’ve already seen the show, do us a favor and let us know what you thought in the comments.

“I mean, think about it. The forever fresh-faced Ms. Parker, one of our most delightful actresses, has traded in her usual air of easy, quirky spontaneity for the robotic petulance of an I-hate-everybody adolescent in a yearlong sulk. With her hair darkened, her face ghostly pale and her frame skeletal thin, her Hedda brings to mind a valley girl who’s given up cheerleading to be a goth because it’s way cooler and it matches the place her mind’s at now.” [NYT]

“There was reason to expect more from Mary-Louise Parker, the latest A-list actress to tackle a character who, like Macbeth or Mama Rose, seems destined to pop up on Broadway every few years. But Parker’s intelligence and range are wasted on this performance, which reduces Hedda to a petulant, if glamorous, brat.” [USA Today]

“There are moments when Parker’s charm and talent keep Hedda afloat, but all too often she drowns in misdirection. Already at curtain rise, she wakes up in a skimpy nightgown on a bed under an inclining mirror, as if she were Miss January after a night of revelry at the Playboy mansion. The good Michael Cerveris as well is fitfully persuasive as her husband, but would Ibsen’s handsome but stodgy blond be a fidgety nervous Nellie, bald as an egg and running around barefoot when his proper aunt is visiting? ” [Bloomberg]

“Now it’s Parker’s turn. The Roundabout Hedda opens with the actress splayed out on a sofa, her lovely gams exposed, introducing the idea that Hedda is one sexy, unfulfilled babe. Having seen the production at a preview, I’m not inclined to pass judgment—except to say I loved watching her (she’s one of the few TV or movie stars who can hold the stage)—but there’s little trace of ‘General Gabler’s daughter.’ Parker’s Hedda is a neurotic alpha girl whose desire for power over someone else’s destiny seems more idle than driven by a fierce need for self-fulfillment. The question is whether Parker, so pretty and girlish and neurasthenic, is a natural Hedda — or a born Nora in Hedda’s clothing.” [NY Mag]

“Rickson opens with the odd choice of placing Parker’s Hedda asleep on an upstage day bed, lying bare-assed with her back to the audience and her dress hiked up around her waist. This provides something to think about through the long, slow and often tedious first act: Is it a symbol of Hedda’s flagrant disregard for society? The constriction of her gender? Has she been visited during the night by Jorgen Tesman (Michael Cerveris), the bookish bore of a husband for whom she feels not a trace of affection? Has she been masturbating? Or is MLP just so used to flitting around in those spike heels and hoochie dresses on Weeds she felt like showing some toned skin? Any of those explanations makes as much sense as the other.” [Variety]