Make Believe – Review by Bonnie Goldberg


In an ideal world, childhood is a precious commodity where parents protect and cherish their young ones, guaranteeing their safety and growth as they journey toward adulthood. What happens, however, when the parents are derailed and shirk their responsibilities, allowing the kids in their care to flounder on their own and find a balance, if at all possible. Such is the milieu of Bess Wohl’s “Make Believe” holding its world premiere at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, September 30.

The inviting 1980’s playroom set created by Antje Ellermann, complete with Cabbage Patch doll, poster of E.T., and toys and games galore, does not even hint at the demons lurking under the curtained fort. Here we find a quartet of children who are without supervision, with nary an adult in sight. There is no after school snack. There is no note of explanation. There is no phone call of reassurance that all is well.

The children Chris (Roman Malenda), Addie (Alexa Skye Swinton), Kate (Sloane Wolfe) and baby Carl (RJ Vercellone), who thinks he is a dog, are abandoned to fend for themselves, playing grown ups, in a disturbing version of what they must hear from their absentee parents. The words are caustic and crude, their actions abusive, their reality terrible to envision. These interactions color the memories they carry into adulthood when, in the second act, they gather in that same room to lay to rest, permanently, one of their own.

You will meet Kate (Megan Byrne), Addie (Molly Ward), Carl (Brad Heberlee) and Chris (Chris Ghaffari) and some of the issues of their youth will be addressed. These children were clearly cheated of the carefree and love enriched promises that should have been theirs to enjoy. As adults, they are still not whole and are still struggling for answers. Now twenty years later, they have returned to “the scene of the crime” to determine where the blame lies, and who the perpetrators and victims are. Jackson Gay directs this involving and difficult scenario of blame and distrust. Please enter this playroom armed with a strong constitution.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Live and relive the childhoods of these four siblings as they struggle to understand what went wrong in what should have been an idyllic world.