The theater portion of the trip begins in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, at the Shaw Festival. Celebrating its 51st season, The Shaw Festival presents outstanding theatrical experiences. Well known for high-quality productions 19th and 20th century plays, they also offer edgier modern pieces. Last season included the 2001 play “Topdog/Underdog” as well as a 2008 Australian play called “When The Rain Stops Falling” which was the highlight of the 2011 theater trip. This year The Shaw Festival is mounting 11 productions. Sadly, I will only get to see 4 of them.
First up will be “Hedda Gabler”; a drama about a complex woman in conflict with the times and circumstances of her life. Written by Ibsen in 1890, this version of the play, by Richard Eyre, was first performed in 2005. I have read the play several times. I stage-managed a community theater production of it years ago. I have never seen a professional production, however, and have never seen any production of this version so, in many ways, it will be new material.
Moya O’Connell plays the title role. I have enjoyed Ms. O’Connell’s performances in the past in plays ranging from Shaw and Wilde to Tennessee Williams and Clare Booth Luce. I particularly enjoyed her performance last season as Maggie in “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof”. I am a ‘tough audience’ for ‘Cat…” because it is one of my favorite plays. I have seen it many times and have often been disappointed. Her performance was subtle, sensitive and sexy in a role that I have seen become caricature too often in previous productions.
Another element that made “Hedda Gabler” a ‘must see’ is its director; Martha Henry. I have enjoyed Ms. Henry’s work as both actor and director for many years at the Stratford Festival. I had the pleasure of seeing her act in Ibsen’s “Ghosts” there in 2006. I look forward to seeing what she brings to the stage as director with “Hedda Gabler”.