"That was a strange show," said a woman after watching the Barter Players in Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler." "What was her whole idea, anyway? Just perfection?"
The production at George Mason University's Harris Theater, while well- intentioned, might leave a lot of people similarly baffled. Perfection, the heroine's avowed ambition as she shoots herself, isn't this show's strong suit. What it does offer, between false moves from director Paul Berman, is a few decent performances in a murderously difficult play.
John Michalski as George Tesman, Hedda's naive, pedantic husband; Paula Mann as the fragile Mrs. Elvsted; and Edward Gero as the reckless Eilert Lovborg, Tesman's rival in love and academe, all give workmanlike portrayals. But as poor Hedda, bored to death (literally) by her petit bourgeois trappings, Dorothy Holland seems as confused as some in the audience.
A troublesome role, fraught with ambiguities, it demands no less than a phenomenal actress. But sensible direction could have trimmed Holland's excesses -- like shouting at Mrs. Elvsted, "First you're going to have your tea, you mad little thing," when a simple coo will do -- and lent some dramatic focus. Hands twirling to no effect, eyes darting at nothing, Hedda seems more madwoman than oppressed housewife; her suicide at the end would make as much sense at the start. HEDDA GABLER -- At the Harris Theater, George Mason University, through November 28.