Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman” – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman”

“John Gabriel Borkman,” will be performed on campus this month under the direction of Professor of Theatre Robert F. Gross. It is a work of great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

First performed in 1887, “John Gabriel Borkman” is noted by Gross as “the penultimate work of the author of ‘Ghosts,’ ‘A Doll’s House,’ and ‘Peer Gynt,’ and is ranked among his greatest accomplishments.” 

Although the work is as mythic as Greek tragedy, it is as timely as today’s headlines which have allowed it to become especially appealing for viewers. It tells the story of John Gabriel Borkman, one-time high-flying entrepreneur, whose financial wheelings and dealings abruptly crashed, impoverishing many and landing him in prison. Leading a reclusive life at home, he dreams of a return to glory, while his wife Gunhild grooms their son, Erhart, to restore the family’s fortunes and reputation. When Gunhild’s sister, Ella, who was once John Gabriel’s fiancée, returns to make a claim on Erhart, all the ghosts of the past return to be confronted on a cold, bitter Norwegian night.

The cast of the show includes:  Steve Owens’10 (John Gabriel Borkman), Hallie Martenson ’09 (Gunhild Borkman), Thomas Frohlich ’09 (Erhart Borkman), Reina Apraez ’11 (Ella Renheim), Deana Stuart ’09 (Fanny Wilton), Alex Johnson ’11 (Vilhelm Foldal), Denisse Polanco ’11 (Frida Foldal), and Sarah Olsen ’11 (Malene). The production staff includes: Bill Burd on set and lighting design, Peter Marciano ’08 on costume design, and Norah Scheinman ’09 as the stage manager. 

Gross describes that, by turns bleakly tragic and grotesquely humorous, this “dance of death,” as Ibsen describes it, offers a brilliant range of character portraits and thrilling opportunities for the cast.

“John Gabriel Borkman” will begin showing at 7 p.m. in the Bartlett Theatre on Thursday – Saturday, Feb. 12, 13 and 14.