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Regional Reviews by Fred Sokol

Reverberation
Hartford Stage

Also see Fred's review of Bad Jews and Zander's review of The Dining Room


Luke Macfarlane
Matthew Lopez's searing new play Reverberation, at Hartford Stage through March 15th, is instantly gripping. Emotionally draining for three brave actors and for those watching, too, the tension-filled script demonstrates, again, that Lopez, a young playwright, stirs hearts and minds.

Actor Luke Macfarlane plays 35-year-old Jonathan, who designs greeting cards, loves books and has lived in Astoria, Queens, for about 15 years. When the play opens, Matthew Richards' lighting is dim as Jonathan and Wes (Carl Lundstedt), 12 years younger, have torrid sex. The theatergoer is compelled to pay attention. The grappling concludes and Jonathan gives Wes a copy of James Baldwin's "Another Country," then leaves.

The stage, as designed by Andromache Chalfant, features interiors of two apartments (one atop the other). Until a year ago, Luke lived upstairs and now he is below. Just arriving on the scene, having rented, is pretty, red-headed Claire (Aya Cash). She clomps up and down the exterior staircase on her high heels. An extrovert who works in one clothing store after the other and a woman who has traveled extensively, she introduces herself to Luke. Misinterpreting a signal, she thinks these two will immediately entwine and is mortified when she realizes her mistake.

Lopez poses dramatic questions from the get-go. Will Wes return? Will Claire ever knock again on the door of Jonathan's apartment? Will any of these desperate, searching souls find any measure of peace of mind?

The ceiling which separates the apartments is thin and Claire hears Luke weeping/shrieking ... and more. They keep in touch, when one needs the other, as he pokes a pole upward or she smacks her fists downward. He eventually invites her to dinner and she learns that Luke's longtime lover Gabriel was pummeled to death somewhat recently. Claire and Luke develop a mutually beneficial relationship, the sweetest bonding ever—and he proposes that they spend Christmastime together in Vermont. The entirety of the action within Reverberation occurs between October and December, 2014. One roots for this to transpire: a happy ending or, at least, a lovely interlude for Jonathan and Claire, seeming opposites (yin and yang) who have pulled together. Her place still includes just a television and an air mattress. His, however, by the time intermission is over, has been tidied. He has given away many books—but he still loves reading the print edition of the New York Times.

Reverberation is astonishingly absorbing and, in a sense, equally upsetting. Observers are caught up in the story, its outcome and implications. Lopez does inject some lighter moments. Coordinating all of this and effectively maximizing all that is forceful, tender, and difficult is director Maxwell Williams. What this show requires is uninhibited in-your-face performances from three talented actors, and Williams coaxes them with specifics while allowing them to amplify. This cumulative result is piercing drama. Tie Blow's original music adds tone.

Well into the second act, Jonathan says "I wanted you to feel how I see you." Lopez's line may be interpreted literally or symbolically. It speaks volumes.

Lopez creates characters who need to find themselves as each explores avenues to secure some degree of personal satisfaction. Within contexts of a relationship which is multi-faceted, Macfarlane and Cash push/pull as they come together and, ultimately, another scenario is presented. During their time on stage, Macfarlane and Lundstedt perform with great courage.

Reverberation is anything but a comfortable or comforting play. It is brutally honest and impactful. Everyone is unsettled. Lopez's dexterity as a playwright includes a gift for finding and then augmenting conflict between characters. His talent as a dialogue writer is exceptional.

Reverberation continues at Hartford Stage through March 15th, 2015. For tickets, call (860) 527-5151 pr visit www.hartfordstage.org.


Photo: T. Charles Erickson

- Fred Sokol



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