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HEDDA THE CLASS

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It’s been a while since GO Girl has dug out her finery for an honest-to-goodness, celebrity-studded bash, so it is with much gratitude that she thanks the great continent of Australia and the Brooklyn Academy of Music for bringing Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett to Fort Greene Tuesday night.

Blanchett is starring in "Hedda Gabler" at the BAM Harvey Theater through March 26, and her opening night performance drew the theater world’s elite to witness one of their own tackle the notoriously difficult role.

Prior to her performance, the refreshingly unconventional benefit dinner was held on the BAM Opera House’s stage, but it’s safe to say that few of the event’s guests had stage fright. Among the veteran thespians spotted in the crowd were theater-cinema-TV triple threat Mary-Louise Parker; actor-director-legendary Park Sloper John Turturro and his wife, actress Katherine Borowitz; actor Liev Schreiber; and actress Marisa Tomei.

GO Girl couldn’t help but worry for Blanchett: This was a tough crowd. Turturro, Borowitz, Tomei and Schreiber all told GO Girl that they had studied lots of Ibsen and seen many "Heddas," while Borowitz said she’d even played the role.

Turturro and Borowitz, BAM Cinema Club chairs, told GO Girl that they thought Cate Blanchett’s opening night would be a great way to celebrate Turturro’s birthday; he and Blanchett worked together in 2001’s "The Man Who Cried."

"We’ve seen enough Ibsen at Yale," said Turturro, looking dashing and authoritative in his chalk stripe suit and glasses. "If she wasn’t in it, we wouldn’t have come." In fact, the couple said, while finishing each other’s sentences, that Diane Wiest’s impressive performance in the title role was their favorite, so far.

Could Blanchett’s interpretation possibly rise to these Americans’ lofty expectations?

Even GO Girl’s tablemates from the Norwegian consulate, who have been laboring to commemorate the centennial year of the death of their native son Henrik Ibsen, had seen lots of his work, too.

Was there anyone in the audience who wasn’t a "Hedda" aficionado?

Well, er, GO Girl’s Ibsen credentials are on the thin side. (BAM’s "Hedda" surprised Go Girl; it was nothing like that one she’d seen in the Village, helmed by naughty drag queen Hedda Lettuce.)

After dinner, GO Girl marched with the muttering gala patrons as they cautiously navigated the two blocks to the BAM Harvey Theater for the performance. (For those positively crippled by their outer-borough-phobia, a bus was provided!)

But those extra steps in her beloved purple satin heels were worth it.

For inside the BAM Harvey Theater was iconic filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who directed Blanchett in her Academy Award-winning performance in "The Aviator" last year.

The shy, bespectacled starmaker told GO Girl at intermission, "I’m a great fan and admirer of Cate’s. I’ve had this date set aside for a long time. It’s a special night for me."

Woozy from her chat with Mr. Mean Streets, Go Girl wondered if the night could get better ... when she spotted Him - in the flesh - across the aisle: Kyan Douglas, the grooming guru from Bravo’s "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

Proving to be just as cool as his Williamsburg digs, Douglas said that after what he’d just seen, he was planning on buying a membership to BAM and "really using it."

"I’m so impressed with Cate," said Douglas, with a knee-knocking smile. "It’s a privilege to see such talent in such an intimate venue."

What Douglas did not approve of, however, was Brooklynites’ "festive attire." Except GO Girl’s, of course. The author of "Beautified: Secrets for Women to Look Great and Feel Fabulous" gave her rather wild peacock-motif velvet poncho an approving nod.

"I interpret festive attire to mean colorful and casual," he intoned. "The crowd just isn’t that festive, damn it."

It was soon back to our seats to see the final act in which Blanchett’s Hedda would prove to be a much more ruthless judge of her friends and family.

"This play could have been called ’Bitch,’" said GO Girl’s observant arm candy. And that’s what makes this play so much fun, we decided, at the post-show dessert reception, back on the Opera House stage.

GO Girl risked calf-cramping as she stayed on tippy-toes, craning her neck to scan the Milky Way of stars drifting across the stage. She stoically declined a martini, in order to keep her head clear for what she hoped would be her impending "Chat with Cate."

Like an episode of "Romper Room," GO Girl scanned backstage, ticking off the luminaries, "I see Maggie Gyllenhaal from ’Secretary.’ I see Mark Ruffalo from ’Rumor Has It.’ I see Naomi Watts from ’King Kong.’ "

It was the intense stare of "Scream" trilogy alum, Liev Schreiber that signaled to GO Girl that Blanchett - the sun around which the entire BAM Harvey Theater wanted to orbit - had arrived. A dozen photographers and cameramen circled her and shined their lights as brightly as Bloomingda­les’s cosmetic counters.

Blanchett, her eyes seeming even more blue and her cheekbones even higher than when she was swishing across the stage in her stunning costumes by the late Kristian Frederikson, told GO Brooklyn that she had already become smitten with the borough.

"I could live in Brooklyn," said Blanchett, who revealed that she’s been delving into the history of the borough’s theaters, despite the demands of rehearsing for the challenging role and sharing time with her husband and "Hedda" adapter, Andrew Upton, and young sons, Roman and Dashiell, who also made the trip from Down Under.

And any fears she may have had about reprising the role she had originated in Australia have been allayed, too, she shared. "The transition [to the BAM Harvey] hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be."

GO Girl was so taken with the super smart, inquisitive thespian that she plans to add BAMcinematek’s March 12 screening of "Little Fish" to her calendar, too. On that night, Blanchett and her "Hedda Gabler" co-star, Hugo Weaving, will answer questions from the audience about the film.

GO Girl was joined by the seasoned Ibsenites in her enthusiasm for the show. Schreiber praised Upton’s handiwork, "This is the best adaptation of this play that I’ve seen - a terrific translation," while Tomei praised Blanchett.

"I’ve seen a few ’Heddas,’ and it’s interesting to see her in the role," said the actress who brought "Salome" to hip-swinging life on the St. Ann’s Warehouse stage opposite Al Pacino. "It was an incredibly luminous performance. I saw her courage, and her craft is so strong."

It seemed that no one wanted the party to end, but GO Girl needed to leave if she was going to make her deadline and a few winks of beauty sleep. Happily, the benefit’s own twin goals - of staging a rollicking opening night and raising $700,000 to be shared by BAM and the Sydney Theatre Company - had been achieved, too.

Inspired by the formidable Blanchett, her head swollen by the compliments she had received, and fortified by a gift bag filled with all of the essentials a lady with lofty ambition needs - chocolate, vodka and lip gloss - GO Girl was ready to "Hedda" home.


The BAM Spring Gala, featuring a performance by the Mark Morris Dance Group at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House and a post-performance dinner with the cast in the Steiner Studios, takes place on March 23 at 6 pm. Tickets to the cocktail reception and performance are $300 for two; and $1,000-and-up for access to the reception, performance and dinner. For information, call (718) 636-4194 or visit the Web site www.bam.org.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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