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A new version of Henrik Ibsen's

November 17, 2014, 7:30 pm

Playwrights Horizons, Peter Jay Sharp Theater • 416 West 42nd Street

Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg

with Arthur Bartow, Rebecca Brooksher, Kieran Campion, Helen Cespedes, Jon DeVries, Jamie Horton, Stephen Kunken, Caitlin O'Connell, Anna Reichert, Harris Yulin, and more


Will the truth set you free? An idealistic son exposes his family’s corruption, in the world premiere of a new version by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn.


Hjalmar Ekdal’s father was rich until scandal cast the family into poverty. Now he lives in a small, shabby home with his senile father, his wife Gina and his daughter Hedvig. And a duck. And there’s about to be a new member of the household. Although based almost entirely on self-deception and illusion, the Ekdal home is a happy one, but Gregers Werle has just returned to town with some unfinished business that could shatter the little world Hjalmar has built around himself.


The OBIE Award-Winning Revelation Reading series provides a unique opportunity to hear new and rarely-produced classic plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York.





The Wild Duck holds a special place among the dramas of Henrik Ibsen.  Written at the height of his realistic period, it portrays contemporary society, as do Ghosts and A Doll House, but from a quite different perspective.  The Ekdals are much less privileged people, and in many ways much more vulnerable.  Their story, like almost all the stories Ibsen tells, is a dark one, but more than any other Ibsen play, the darkness is shot through with some of Ibsen’s most striking bits of comedy.  Indeed as the play progresses, comic and tragic elements become more and more closely intertwined and work to deepen each other’s effect.  The so-called dark comedy or tragicomedy of modern times can be said to have received its first full expression in this remarkable play. 


The play also strikes an ironic and reflexive note that is not new in Ibsen’s work, but never before so fully expressed.  Before this play, audiences saw Ibsen as the great modern champion of exposing the dead ideas of conventional social mores and ideals of propriety in such plays as A Doll House, Ghosts, and An Enemy of the People.  But here the action is driven by a character who seems almost a parody of Ibsen, the revealer of unwelcome hidden truths, who seeks to liberate others by these revelations but in fact in destroying their illusions, destroys their happiness as well.  Many Ibsen devotees were puzzled and shocked by the play, seeing it close to Ibsen self-parody, but as time has passed, it has become clear that Ibsen is simply presenting a much more complicated view of the human condition than his first disciples assumed, portraying a world of contradiction and ambiguity in which competing belief systems continually struggle for dominance, with all of them in some way flawed or incomplete, as are the all too human beings who promote or disparage them.  The confused and struggling people in the world of The Wild Duck share with all of us these struggles, and in so doing become among the most sympathetic and deeply human characters in all of Ibsen’s drama.  





David Auburn was awarded the  Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award, and Drama Desk award for his play Proof.  Other plays include Lost Lake, currently on Broadway, The Columnist, The New York Idea, An Upset and Amateurs, The Journals of Mihail Sebastian and Skyscraper. Films include The Girl in the Park (writer/director) and The Lake House. His work has been published in Harper’s, New England Review, and Guilt and Pleasure; and he was a contributing editor to the Oxford American Writers Thesaurus. Last year he gave the Esmond Harmsworth Lecture in American Arts and Letters at Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute. A former Guggenheim Fellow, he lives in New York City.


Henrik Ibsen is the world's most frequently performed dramatist after William Shakespeare. Born in Skien on March 20, 1828, Ibsen’s childhood was marked with the sudden misfortune of his father’s bankruptcy and his family’s forced retreat to their small summer home in Venstøp.  Financial difficulty and dark family secrets became a common theme in his writing. His major works include Brand, Peer Gynt, An Enemy of the People, Emperor and Galilean, A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, Ghosts, The Wild Duck, Rosmersholm, and The Master Builder, and although most of his plays are set in Norway—often in places reminiscent of Skien—Ibsen lived for 27 years in Italy and Germany, and rarely visited Norway during his most productive years. Ibsen is often ranked as one of the truly great playwrights in the European tradition. Richard Hornby describes him as "a profound poetic dramatist—the best since Shakespeare". He is often referred to as "the father of realism" and is one of the founders of Modernism in theatre.

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