Energy and Imagination
By Roz Friedman
There is enough energy and imagination in the newest Hartford Stage fluidly-staged production to light up a whole city. Much of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer adapted for the stage by Laura Eason and directed by Jeremy B. Cohen is delightful and endearing. The best things about the production are first and foremost the many gifted young people making their debut on stage. After all they are our future. Equally important is the inventive technical support. Daniel Ostling’s Set Design includes a large sectioned picket fence and a wooden platform; both hide and provide many things. The set is enhanced by Robert Wiertzerl’s creative lighting, Ilona Somogyi’s appropriate Costumes, and Original Music and very clear Sound Design by Broken Chord Collective.
A quote from Mark Twain written in Hartford in 1876 says: Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women ….part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked. To a great degree, Ms. Eason has captured the best of Twain; yet while adults can enjoy the exploits of the young, I think the play is better suited for children of every age.
Here in the 1840’s in St. Petersburg, Missouri on the Mississippi River, we are introduced to the high-spirited orphan Tom, played with a nice natural air by red-headed Tom McKiernan. He’s been taken in by his sister’s mother, Nancy Lemancer’s Aunt Polly, who is hard-pressed to keep Tom in school and out of trouble. His best friend, barefoot Huckleberry Finn, acted by Casey Predovic has little to no family life, and they agree to run off together. Their adventure leads them to witness a murder, which forces them to take a vow of silence. The plot involves grave–robbing, and a sinister Indian referred to as Injun Joe, a part played with fearsome qualities by Teddy Canez, who also depicts the fearsome School Master and the Minister.
Woven through the escapades of Tom and Huck, morals and manners and superstitions of the time are examined. Romance rears its lovely head with pretty Louisa Krause’s Becky Thatcher reminding us of Emily in Our Town. The cave scene is drawn out too long; but the courtroom scene is effective. Chris Bowyer does a good job as Doc Robinson, the man who is killed, and as the Lawyer for the Prosecution.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer will play Thru May 9 at Hartford Stage.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO