THE WILD DUCK by Henrik Ibsen, directed by László Marton, with Brent Carver, David Hemblen, Maggie Huculak, Diego Matamoros, Alon Nashman, William Webster and Joseph Ziegler. Presented by Soulpepper at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre (235 Queens Quay West). Runs in rep to September 3. $32.50-$51.50, students $25, limited same-day rush $5-$18. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
I wonder that Henrik Ibsen's the Wild Duck isn't on every high school reading list. And I wonder that we don't learn better the history of passionate idealism, of feeling like life is based on nothing more than a slick web of deception and illusion.
What better, more dynamic group than the good people at Soulpepper to show us the extent of these timeless themes?
After directing the piece recently in Ireland, Hungarian director László Marton chooses a staging that makes the most of Ibsen's psychological subtext.
Ibsen's classic about the clash between ideals and reality begins in the opulent home of Werle ( David Hemblen ), a businessman whose son Gregers ( Brent Carver ) shows up uninvited - the portentous 13th man at dinner. Gregers meets old friend Hjalmar ( Diego Matamoros ), a genuinely content family man, and methodically tears Hjalmar's world apart in the name of the ideals his friend once held.
Carver's precise, small movements develop throughout the piece, perfectly mirroring his hostile takeover: as Hjalmar falls apart, Gregers makes himself seem peripheral, physically implying that it's the other man's fault that tragedy befalls his wife, Gina ( Maggie Huculak ), and daughter, Hedwig ( Martha MacIsaac ).
Csörsz Khell 's set frames the psychological movement of the play without being intrusive. An entirely black-and-white set opens the production, the crimson punch and delicate crystal glassware establishing the coldness of the class division Gregers despises.
For the rest of the play we move into Hjalmar's house, the stark lines softening into warm browns and reds, making Gregers's disruptive radicalism seem more maniacal and Hjalmar's life more mundane.
Huculak and MacIsaac give strong, clear performances in two of the play's most difficult roles. MacIsaac in particular plays innocent Hedwig with a real spark of intelligence, while Huculak as Hjalmar's secretive, passionate wife counters Gregers's attack with her own kind of radical ammunition.