BWW Review: HEDDATRON at Theater Arts Department Boise State

Darrin J. Pufall

Let me start off by saying that Heddatron is not a show that most community theaters would choose for a regular season. It is an Absurdist drama that would have a hard time attracting a general audience. Nevertheless, it is a mesmerizing piece of drama with some unique facets that make it an engaging drama for enthusiasts of theatre. First produced in 2005, it's defining characteristic is the use of "functioning robots" or at least the semblance of such.

Boise State University Department of Theatre Arts' production of HEDDATRON by Elizabeth Meriwether. As I was searching for a way to describe this show, I went to the publisher's description. "A pregnant housewife is abducted by robots and taken to the rainforest and forced to perform Hedda Gabler by her robot captors. Meanwhile, her family is back home in Michigan trying to find her, and Henrik Ibsen is in Norway attempting to write Hedda Gabler, as Strindberg taunts him."

While that description is technically true, it hardly captures the absurdity or energy of this show. The show's first half is chaotic, jumping between three different scenes with seemingly no direction or plot.

HEDDATRON starts with a book falling from the sky and a bored and very pregnant housewife, Jane (Hayden Pederson) attempting suicide. As the play progresses, we see bits with her learning the lines to Hedda Gabler; ordered by a disembodied voice.

On one side of the stage, we see a stoic Ibsen (Tristan Fishman), berated by his shrewish wife (Kelly Barker). Mrs. Ibsen is goading Ibsen from his emotionally distant, almost robotic funk, first by bringing in a delightfully sexy maid, Else (Marley Snow-King) who tries to arouse Ibsen; then by bringing in Ibsen's arch enemy, August Strindberg (Michael Montanus) who taunts Ibsen like a tenacious Snidley Whiplash.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stage, we see a modern family led by the lugubrious dad, Rick (Joel Hroma) and his brother and arms dealer, Cubby (Benton Lane) working on a documentary with a Film Student (Michael Burns) on the disappearance of Rick's wife, Jane. Then we have Nugget (Mia Raymes) the daughter of Rick and Jane, playing the wide-eyed young girl doing a 6th grade school report on Hedda Gabbler. Nugget also acts as a narrator, tying many of the scenes together. You are immediately drawn by the disconnect of an innocent child talking about such a complex adult story.

We are only getting started though. When the robots enter, we discover that they have captured Jane and are forcing her to perform Hedda Gabbler. Then we begin to see the true chaos unfolding.

Director, Michael Baltzell has crafted an excellent show, with some Great Performances by the cast of what must have been a challenging show to direct. The technical side of having live video and working robots integrated with actors portraying emotionally disconnected, dare I say, "robotic" characters would be a challenge for anyone. To have the different story lines jump around the stage, left me with a whirlwind of thoughts.

There are some great moments of wit and anxiety in this show. But this show is about our own loneliness and disconnection from those around us that can be summed up in the words of a famous song from the '80s:

Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit lonely and you're never coming round
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit nervous that the best of all the years have gone by
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit terrified and then I see the look in your eyes
Turnaround bright eyes, but every now and then I fall apart

I'll give this a Theatre Nerd thumbs up for performances, technical prowess, and script. Go see it this weekend.

HEDDATRON can be seen at the Danny Peterson Theater at the Morrison Center, November 15-19. Tickets are $15 and available online through ticketmaster.com

https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/246823/2154882?brand=morrisoncenter

Review by Guest Blogger: Jonathan Perry

Photo Credit: Darrin J. Pufall, Costume Designer and Associate Professor Department of Theatre Arts, Boise State University



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