Just how deep a person's unhappiness can penetrate the mind and soul is the cornerstone thought and theme for the stage story of "Hedda Gabler."
The play by Henrik Ibsen as translated by Nicholas Rudall is masterfully directed by Kimberly Senior for a fresh telling at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Ill., now through March 16.
Actress Kate Fry plays the title character, and delivers a performance so focused and crisply cold as the calculating Hedda, my eyes were glued to her every paced move.
The 2.5-hour play, with two 10-minute intermissions, is the classic tale of newly wed Hedda and her lack of contentedness with her privileged life and loving husband. The daughter of a now deceased doting father, she takes pleasure pulling strings attached to the lives that surround her, to their detriment, which is her amusement.
Sean Fortunato plays her professor husband, a man she finds dull and predictable. He is devoted to her, which she finds patronizing. Fortunato is great in this guise and haplessly follows his bride's every move, showering her with compliments. Further irritating Hedda is her husband's close bond to his aunts, especially his Aunt Julie, played beautifully with controlled patience by actress Barbara Figgins. The primary puppets that Hedda targets, when pulling strings, are a former suitor Eilert Lovborg, played passionately by Mark Montgomery. Her interest in the former wooer's life is further complicated by news he is competing with her own new husband's possible hiring for a coveted academic position. Hedda's other favorite pawn is Thea Elvsted, a neighbor's meek wife who has romantic aspirations for Lovborg.
The one person who is able to compete with Hedda's prickly persona is her husband's friend Judge Brack, a sublime and slippery character excellently captured in the performance by actor Scott Parkinson.
Scenic designer Jack Magaw creates a beautiful setting of a country estate, and the costume design by Rachel Laritz is stunning. The morose mood of the household is framed by the lighting design of Christine Binder, assisted by the original music and sound design of Christopher Kriz.
Properties designer Julie Eberhardt adds the final touches, which are the crowning key focal points as this story unfolds, from beautiful cut-crystal punch glasses and ivory-handled pistols.
Tickets for this not-to-be-missed production are $35 to $70. Purchase them at (847) 242-6000 or writerstheatre.org.