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The Wind Cries Mary 

Bad '60s clichés weigh down this rewrite of Hedda Gabler

Wednesday, Nov 13 2002
Eiko Hanabe, in Philip Kan Gotanda's new '60s play at the San Jose Rep, is a proper but frustrated woman with a scandalous past, caught between the respectable white professor she has married and a wild, brilliant former lover named Miles. If the setup sounds like Hedda Gabler, that's because Gotanda has set out to write a version of Henrik Ibsen's masterpiece for his own generation. The characters are involved in the Asian-identity movement and Vietnam protests that Gotanda remembers from San Francisco in 1968. Raymond, Eiko's husband, is up for a professorship at S.F. State, and Miles is his rival -- a wandering drug-experimenter with a new book about the counterculture that threatens to outshine Raymond's dowdy academic publications. Unfortunately, the politics of 1968 don't map onto the politics of 1890, when Hedda Gabler was written, so Gotanda's rewrite feels stale. It relies on too many clichés of the '60s -- like the "mind expansion" of certain fashionable drugs -- and assumes that Eiko would feel as squelched in a 20th-century American city as Hedda felt in petit-bourgeois Norway. I don't buy it. Thomas Vincent Kelly does a fine job with Raymond, and Tess Lina can be sharp-tongued as Eiko, but her eventual suicide seems forced, and most of the drama feels secondhand.


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