Make Believe – Review by Joshua Gorero

Bess Wohl’s “Make Believe,” which is showing at the Hartford Stage, is a reminder that what one has experienced in his/her past, especially during childhood, may shape his/her life in the future and that through traumatic and tough times, many find ways to mask their struggles and pain. Director Jackson Gay brings “Make Believe” and its messages to life, and every part of this production is absolutely phenomenal.

The story first revolves around four young siblings in the colorful 1980s. With their father working out of state and their mother out of the house for a while, the eldest son Chris (Roman Malenda) takes the responsibility of watching over as well as entertaining his siblings. Kate (Sloane Wolfe), the second oldest, is the more mature child and also does what she can do to help and entertain Addie (Alexa Skye Swinton) and Carl (RJ Vercellone), the third and fourth children, respectively. To entertain themselves as they wait for their mother to return home, the children do activities such as “pretend family” and “space adventures,” which are the children’s subconscious perceptions of what they see in their actual family.

The story then takes place in the present day. The children, now adults and having their own separate lives and families, return to their hometown to attend a family member’s funeral and reunite in their childhood playroom. There, the siblings reflect on what they have become and how their childhoods have shaped them.

The cast members are hilarious and very talented. Megan Byrne, who plays Kate as an adult, beautifully/wonderfully/precisely executes the stressed and anxious person Kate has become. With her pacing back and forth and frantic emotions Kate, Byrne perfectly depicts the character. Brad Heberlee, who plays Carl as an adult, and Chris Ghaffari, who plays as a guest during the funeral reception, are very amusing and great actors. Molly Ward, who plays Addie as an adult, wonderfully depicts the easy-going, somewhat pessimistic attitude that the character possesses. The child actors and actresses in this production play their characters with great ease and much energy.

The scenic design by Antje Ellermann makes the audience members feel as if they are in the 1980s, with the colorful, bright furniture and toys, as well as the bulky, boxed television set, placed onstage. The sound design by Broken Chord also produces the 80’s feeling with the retro-game sound effects being made while the children are playing with their joystick videogame and with the loud beep and the static in the voices leaving messages on the landline voicemail box.

“Make Believe” is a very profound story that all should see. With an amusing, talented cast and a wonderful set design, the story comes to life and will captivate audiences.

“Make Believe” will be showing until Sunday, September 30, 2018. To purchase tickets and/or to get more information, please call (860)-527-5151 or go to www.hartfordstage.org.

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