Mar 11, 2012
I've been hearing good things about Jeff Whitty's The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, a camp fantasia imagining Ibsen's heroine in a kind of post-suicide purgatory with a number of other iconic figures, since at least this interview with director Bill Rauch, where he talks about working on it for its South Coast Rep premiere in January 2006. Rauch subsequently mounted it again at Oregon Shakes when he took over there. Since then, as far as I can tell from a thorough glance at Jeff's bio, the play has languished, with no New York or regional productions to follow. That's weird, because you'd think that Whitty—Tony-winning librettist of Avenue Q, Tales of the City, and Bring It On—would have the juice to open doors at Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, MTC, the Public, etc., and that a play favorably reviewed at South Coast (well, not universally favorably) would get a shot on a New York stage.
No dice—until now, except that the show isn't on a New York stage per se. It's being staged at director Ed Sylvanus Iskandar's West Side apartment for a limited run Mar. 1-19, in a free (suggested-donation) "lab" production by a troupe called Exit Pursued by a Bear. A colleague of mine saw it this past week and gushed about the play—compared it to Stoppard, but for our generation—and about the at-home intimacy of the staging. Apartment theater does seem to be something of a trend in New York these days, often but not always at an "undisclosed location" or by invitation only (Soho Rep's Elective Affinities, for one, or the Chashama Balm in Gilead in Brooklyn, or Woodshed Collective's The Tenant, for starters). Though this quasi-review likens the experience to a speakeasy, it's not all that under-the-radar; you can request an invite to this "theatre party" here (and I do hope they extend, as I'll be out of town next week).
I'm not sure what it says about the health of our theater scene that an artist of Whitty's caliber is doing an ambitious, well-received play for free in a New York apartment; but if I look at the glass-half-full side, this does seem like a unique, inimitable way to experience his work, a true gift in a commodified age. People just don't do such things.
Posted by Rob Weinert-Kendt at 9:45 AM