The Age of Innocence – Bonnie Goldberg

Known as the Gilded Age, it was a sophisticated time when the upper class society ruled in all its prim and proper protocol. Some might term it stilted and too prescribed by strict dictates of behavior to be enjoyable. But the end of the 19th century was marked by more than women’s bustles and men’s morning coats. To gain an introduction to these special decades from 1870’s to the 1900’s, look no further than Edith Wharton’s revealing “The Age of Innocence” being beautiful displayed at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, May 6.

Boyd Gaines is eloquent as an older and wiser version of himself, a principled young attorney Newland Archer, who reflects back on his life and his choices and serves as the story’s narrator. He now has the perspective of maturity to determine if he should have acted differently on matters of the heart, society be damned.

Andrew Veenstra is the eager and enthusiastic Newland whose life is laid out for him as a long stately path. Newly engaged to May Welland, a conservative, shy and lovely Helen Cespedes, he is set on a charmed existence. What happens, therefore, when May’s flamboyant cousin the Countess Ellen Olenska arrives from Europe cloaked in a swirl of scandal. Newland is immediately intrigued and fascinated by this exotic creature, brought to life by Sierra Boggess. Conflicted, Newland agonizes over his duty to May and the longings of his heart.

“The Age of Innocence”has been adapted for the stage by Douglas McGrath, in association with The McCarter Theatre Center. John Lee Beatty has designed an elegant set, with distinct period costumes fashioned by Linda Cho, under the cultured direction of Doug Hughes.

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

Enter the rarified world of the privileged elite of New York society where manners and morals trump marriage and matters of the heart.