Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Espejos: Clean
Hartford Stage
Review by Fred Sokol

Emma Ramos and Kate Abbruzzese
Photo by T Charles Erickson
Hartford Stage's production of Espejos: Clean continuously commands attention through exquisite performance. Christine Quintana's script, translated and adapted by Paula Zelaya Cervantes, is engaging even if, at times, just a bit confusing. Director Melissa Crespo and actresses Emma Ramos as Adriana and Kate Abbruzzese embodying Sarah bring fluidity and versatility to the production. Melia Bensussen, current Hartford Stage artistic director, receives a positive nod for presenting a bilingual work at her theater, where it runs through February 5th.

Mariana Sanchez's striking, lovely, three-tiered set brings to mind TV's "The White Lotus" series. Sarah's unseen little sister is about to be married, and the trappings, including varied blue hues and poolside, are perfect for the destination extravaganza in Cancun, Mexico. Adriana's job description as head housekeeper dictates that she keep the place fit for the imminent wedding. Adri has a most personal story, which includes her never-viewed boyfriend Nicolas and her initial departure from her home, elsewhere in Mexico. Sarah, who suffered a disastrous trauma early in her life, tends to drink quite often. She has flown in from Vancouver to be with her little sister, the bride. When Sarah speaks, it's as if a verbal fountain is overflowing with pent up feeling.

The initial segment immediately hooks the viewer. As Adriana faces the audience, Espejos is tricky to watch because audience members must shift focus from subtitles (top) to an effective video of an Adriana journey portrayed on a middle level, and then toward the character herself, situated on the bottom component of the stage. This is really the only portion of the show when it's challenging to keep track and follow different threads. On the contrary, the translations are otherwise of great assistance and one needn't have mastery of both Spanish and English to fully enjoy the goings on.

Structurally, each woman delivers several monologues, though the two of them do come together upon occasion. Ramos's Adriana impersonates several people, including her own mother and a junior housekeeper. Adriana grew up in the control of her dominant father. Ramos is physically malleable, fittingly loud or glib with her delivery according to need. Sarah first appears on stage wearing a bikini top and shorts designed by costumer Lux Haac and it's clear this young woman is in distress if not disarray. She hasn't fully resolved the very dark incident in her past. Abbruzzese must be extroverted in the role, even while shielding her sadness. Adriana's narrative is the more compelling of the two, but both are afforded the opportunity to vent or expound through revelatory comment and reflection. The playwright best sculpts Adriana while each individual is a victim who seeks some kind of liberation.

Before intermission, Colleen Doherty's lighting combines with Daniela Hart & Uptownworks' sound as a multi-sensory storm descends upon the resort (including strobe lighting). The scene is both important and impactful because it complements the tense dialogue.

Melissa Crespo's pinpoint guidance of her actresses is pivotal as each (one a native of Chetumal, Mexico, and the other from Vancouver, Canada) must depict troubling pasts. The performers' timing is precise, and the direction most often assists in this regard. Crespo is associate artistic director at the Syracuse Stage where this rendering, in co-production with Hartford Stage, opens in mid-February.

Espejos is a dramatic piece filled with heartfelt moments and internal conflict. To her credit, playwright Christine Quintana provides balance with some wry comedy. It is, from the outset, an experience very much visual as well as emotional. At times it's not clear whether we're in a dream or reality sequence, but the strength of the overall production surmounts that particular issue.

Espejos: Clean runs through February 5, 2023, at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford CT. For tickets and information, call 860-527-5151 or visit