Sight is arguably one of the most essential senses. With sight, one is able to perceive texture, color, and light. The Conservatory Theater Company at Point Park University brings each aspect of this to life, but succeeds in the most dynamic aspect of The Wild Duck, what we can’t see has just as much power, if not more.
The translation by Richard Nelson of Ibsen’s original, Norwegian work is smart. The language feels modern but preserves the authenticity and depth to the story. The Wild Duck is about the Ekdal’s and the Werle’s revelations as to how their families are connected. Ashton Guthrie is a virtuoso. His performance as Hialmar Ekdel is a powder keg of nuance from when he starts off as unsuspecting and reticent, only to be turned to fury after he comes to understand how he has been manipulated to certain beliefs by those around him. What so sensational about Guthrie is even in the first moment on stage you’re already captivated. Hialmar connects with his old friend Gregers Werle. Austin Sultzbach’s performance as Gergers is close to finding the charm needed to make his character empathetic, but close still never makes his influence on those around him feel attested.
Guthrie is given strong support by the rest of his family. His wife, Gina and daughter, Hedvig played by Hayley Warfel and Ashley Ball are submissive, but not due to weakness, rather vulnerability and devotion. Conner Gillooly as Relling, a tenant of the Ekdal house, gives one of the most natural performances, as the catalyst to the slow burning tension in the family. His delivery of the final line in the show left me covered in goose(er, duck?)bumps.
The running time of the show is long, but Point Park Conservatory manages to tackle this robust drama with intrigue and skill. The greatest scenes in the show garner so much momentum, but often found themselves ending with a fizzle rather than the cathartic bang they deserved.. Luckily, the production gives deserving breaks with an appropriate use of projections designed by Jessi Sedon-Essad and a scenic design by Stephanie Mayer-Staley that supplies the production a richer tone to the time period of the show.
The vagueness and foreshadowing is handled well by director Shirley Tannenbaum who never makes it a mantelpiece to the production, but setting it up with enough deliberation in the exposition heavy act one that makes act two a sweeping storm of high drama and disclosure.
In The Wild Duck sight is lost and gained. You would lose nothing from seeing this production.
Special thanks to the Pittsburgh Playhouse for complimentary press tickets.The Wild Duck runs through November 22nd. Tickets and more information can be found here.