If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan
“Reverberation,” A World Premiere in Hartford
In the program notes for the Hartford Stage’s current production of “Reverberation”, playwright Matthew Lopez observes: “I’m not the first writer to point this out and I won’t be the last: New York City can be a crushingly lonely place despite its millions of people.” And therein lays my basic problem with this world premiere play now enjoying a well-acted and generously produced production in Hartford. “Reverberation” is not saying anything that dozens of writers haven’t already said before. And better.
Set in contemporary Astoria, Queens, “Reverberation” charts the lonely existence of hunky gay illustrator Jonathan (Luke MacFarlane) as he recovers from the shocking death of his longtime lover. We learn about this death in a long, sad monologue that recalls a similar one written by Harvey Fierstein for his landmark 1982 gay drama, “Torch Song Trilogy”. Jonathan seems to rarely venture outside working from home designing sympathy cards, surfing porn and meeting anonymous men online. Into his life comes the mysterious upstairs neighbor, Claire (Aya Cash), who quickly bonds with Jonathan and becomes an agent of change for his melancholy life. Before you can say “Will and Grace”, she has practically moved in for a platonic relationship that has the couple sharing dinners, snuggling in the same bed and planning a Thanksgiving trip to Vermont.
Despite a vivid opening scene featuring some fairly graphic hot and heavy gay sex (the play is recommended for ages 18+), “Reverberation” really doesn’t tell us anything new or specific about finding love and commitment in the Internet age. It is well played and sincere, but Lopez has a habit of writing plays that would be far better suited to the screen. As he demonstrated with his previous works in Hartford, “Somewhere” and “The Whipping Man”, his references tend to be more cinematic than theatrical.
“Reverberation”, like his earlier plays, employs endless short scenes as though he were concerned about the amount of time an audience will watch a sequence play out. And, as directed by Maxwell Williams, the drama takes several pregnant pauses and includes long silent sections that beg for significance but only serve to extend the already tiresome two hour and 20 minute running time. The ending, which will not be revealed here, is also problematic beginning with some awkward and baffling stage violence which leads to a WTF-type climax that had audiences around me wondering if the play was really going to end that way. It did, but in its present form, none of it really worked.
The casting for “Reverberation” cannot be faulted and includes newcomer Carl Lundstedt in the small but pivotal role of Wes, a new man in Jonathan’s life who just might offer some hope. MacFarlane and Cash have an easy chemistry and are both, it goes without saying, pretty easy on the eyes. The two-story, intricately detailed apartment setting by designer Andromache Chalfant is impressive even though it seems, at times, ready to swallow the small cast whole. Matthew Richards’ lighting and Tei Blow’s original music and sound contribute effectively to the overall atmosphere of this ultimately odd and all-too-familiar story.
“Reverberation” continues at Hartford Stage through March 15. For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.527.5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.