'GABLER' DIRECTOR, STAR IN UGLY FEUD
"Hedda Gabler" star Mary-Louise Parker, shown here at a party following the opening night of the show, is at odds with her Broadway director, Ian Rickson.
GENERAL Gabler's dueling pistols better be under lock and key backstage at "Hedda Gabler." Because if Mary-Louise Parker and British director Ian Rickson get hold of them, there's going to be some shooting!
Parker and Rickson clashed repeatedly during rehearsals, sources say - which may be one reason why the new Roundabout production is, to quote one critic, "one of the worst revivals I have ever, ever seen."
Things got so tense a few days before Sunday night's opening that Parker, maybe because she knew she was about to open in a dog, smashed a glass pitcher on the floor during the performance.
Rickson, sources say, was watching the show from the back of the house and decided he'd better get out of town before she hurled something at him. (Ben Brantley, maybe?)
The director took off the next day for London and didn't attend the opening-night party.
Todd Haimes, the head of the Roundabout, said in a statement: "Mary-Louise Parker is an extraordinary actress and a consummate professional. The 'Hedda Gabler' cast is an extremely happy company. Mary-Louise and Ian Rickson have a great respect for each other and would happily work on another production together."
"Ian went home to England after the production was frozen on Wednesday night, to be with his family."
But a week before he left, Parker forbade him from giving her any more performance notes, sources say. And when he tried to visit her in her dressing room, they say, she slammed the door in his face.
Peter Stormare, the Swedish actor playing Judge Brack, joined forces with her, refusing to take any more notes from the "fussy English director," one of my spies reports.
Parker had other allies as well, including the stage manager, whom she handpicked to "look out for her interests backstage," says a source.
"Everybody was on her side," the source says. "He [Rickson] was isolated."
Parker, the star of the Showtime series "Weeds," has a reputation for being difficult. As talented as she is, she "can be a nightmare to work with," one theater person says. Others call her "loony," "icy" and "completely nuts."
Last year, she terrified the crew at "Dead Man's Cell Phone," flying into rages when there were technical difficulties and threatening to quit because she didn't like a cast replacement. She has many champions, however, including the great actress Kathleen Chalfant.
After I reported on Parker's backstage antics at "Dead Man's Cell Phone," Chalfant e-mailed me to say how wrong I was about Parker, who, she added, "was a pleasure to work with."
At "Hedda Gabler," Parker's supporters point the finger at Rickson, who, they say, seemed at sea during rehearsals, tinkering endlessly with the production.
Rickson's allies say he was flummoxed by Parker's inability to do a period piece. He was forced to build a contemporary production of a 19th-century play around her contemporary acting style.
Whatever the reason, the show is yet another black eye for the Roundabout, which, like the Manhattan Theatre Club (another subsidized theater that's gotten as stale as yesterday's baguette), is turning into a clunker factory.
Last month, the Roundabout opened what many critics thought was a listless revival of Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey." Things weren't so listless backstage, however, what with the firing of leading man Christian Hoff and the e-mail war between Haimes and Ted Chapin, who oversees the estates of Rodgers and Hart.
The Roundabout has two more chances to get its act together this season. In May, Nathan Lane will open in a revival of "Waiting for Godot." If Nathan can channel the legendary Bert Lahr, this could be an existential treat.
And in April, Matthew Broderick will headline a revival of "The Philanthropist." Broderick, who was off his game in "The Odd Couple," seems to have gotten his old comic prowess back. He was hilarious in his readings the other night at "Celebrity Autobiography" as David Cassidy and Richard Burton.
ETA: More photos of MLP at the opening night after party:
Hedda Gabler opening night video