Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 3, 2015


Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through March 15, 2015
by Bernadette Johnson

Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak has admitted hesitating to include Matthew Lopez’s “Reverberation” – a bold play that is “rather frank – about love and sexuality; gay, straight, and in between” – in the current season lineup. Luckily for Hartford Stage theatergoers, Tresnjak trusted his audience, and this compelling piece of theatre is currently making its world debut before Hartford audiences.

Lopez is no stranger to HS. A young talent and prolific playwright, his award-winning work “The Whipping Man” garnered rave reviews here in 2012. Now, with “Reverberation,” Lopez has definitely scored once again. Yes, this is a tale of love and sexuality, but more so, it is emotion laid bare – grief, loneliness, desperation, desolation – as his characters (Jonathan, grieving the untimely death of his longtime lover; Claire, the new upstairs neighbor; and Wes, one of Jonathan’s one-night-stands) struggle to give their lives meaning.

Each actor is powerful and authentic in his/her respective role, making audience members forget they are actually watching a play, but feeling, rather, caught up in the maelstrom that is their lives. The emotions are genuine, their expression raw and riveting. Luke Macfarlane’s Jonathan is enshrouded by grief, withdrawn and dispirited. Aya Cash’s Claire is vibrant, probing and challenging, an extroverted foil to Jonathan’s self-absorbed character, a clash that eventually dissolves, at least temporarily, into an interdependent affinity. Carl Lundstedt’s Wes displays a trusting boyish innocence and is delightfully love-struck. Silences and hesitations speak volumes. Unfortunately, many tête-à-têtes between Jonathan and Claire are close and intimate, so much so that some dialogue is lost.

Scenic Designer Andromache Chalfant’s impressive multilevel Astoria, Queens’ apartment house with adjacent four flights of stairs is more than a setting. Although told that both apartments are identical, Jonathan’s is as cluttered as his mind, whereas Claire’s upstairs unit is sparse, as unsettled as she is. Act II adjustments note the passage of time and suggest that they have both moved on.

Tei Blow’s music and sounds are loud and chaotic, at times bordering on annoyingly so, until one begins to associate the dissonance with the characters’ states of mind.