The actor Luke MacFarlane, during his time in Hartford preparing for the world premiere of Matthew Lopez’s new play “Reverberation,” which opens Friday evening, February 27 at the Hartford Stage, has enjoyed the opportunity to play a role that, albeit challenging, is down to earth.
He not only means that he enjoys sharing a stage with two fellow actors before a live audience, but that he finds himself in a work that deals with deep psychological issues in an open, honest way that at times can be surprisingly emotional and raw. In addition, the run at Hartford Stage, through March 15, allows the 35-year old Canadian born actor to put aside the space lasers and anti-gravity boots that have been his props for the past several months and play an earth-bound character in a contemporary setting.
For the past four months, MacFarlane, perhaps best known as Scottie on the hit television series “Brothers and Sisters,” has been traversing the galaxy as a futuristic bounty hunter for the upcoming Syfy network series, “Killjoys.” Shot in Toronto, the “space opera,” to use MacFarlane’s words, has seen him fighting crime across the solar system alongside actors Aaron Ashmore (“Warehouse 13”) and Hannah John-Kamen (TV’s “The Hour” and the videogames “Dark Souls”), both of whom he indicates “have been inspiring the hell out of me.”
But chasing bad guys past dwarf stars and black holes id not quite prepare MacFarlane for what was waiting for him in “Reverberation.” He explains his initial reaction to the script: “It was really scary. It is a play about intimacy in which everything needs to be honest and true. You cannot fake your way through those moments.”
Following his latest television endeavor, MacFarlane stated that the idea of not returning to something that was safe “was very appealing.” He cites the very opening scene of the play which requires him and fellow actor Carl Lundstedt, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University making his professional debut, to bravely engage in some very graphic activities on stage which signal for the audience the level and intensity of the characterizations they are going to encounter throughout the evening. He also salutes his female costar Aya Cash, who he describes as “amazingly talented and sexy,” as the somewhat mysterious upstairs neighbor, Claire, who, in scenes that mix silences and confrontations, help to draw his character, Jonathan, out of a self-imposed isolation that resulted from a horrific incident a year before.
“I have been impressed by the size and the scale of the Hartford Stage production,” the actor continued. The set, which was designed by Andromache Chalfant, shows two apartments on stage at the same time, one above the other, nearly identical in layout, located in Astoria, Queens. He has also appreciated working with the play’s director, Maxwell Williams, who has been at Hartford Stage for nearly 13 years, most recently as Associate Artistic Director, and who has been associated with “Reverberation” through early readings after Lopez finished his first drafts.
MacFarlane seems to have established an intimate connection himself with his character, Jonathan. “He’s trying to reconnect with the world after this really painful event and we see him struggling to find his way back into the world,” he describes. “He seems to be a very kind person, who is very good at listening to people.” That latter aspect of “Reverberation” holds special appeal for him: “I love that more than anything, listening to my fellow actors on the stage.”
A graduate of Julliard in New York City, MacFarlane had discovered his love for acting working with the esteemed Canadian actress and director Martha Henry in his native Ontario. After Julliard, which he indicates was “the best jumping off point for his career,” he was quickly cast in Wendy MacLeod’s “Juvenilia” at Playwrights’ Horizons, which subsequently landed him the lead in Christopher Finn’s “Where Do We Live” at the Vineyard Theatre, indicating that the Wethersfield-native playwright had to be “sort-of fooled into offering me the part,” since the playwright was not quite aware of the actor’s abilities. It was Shinn who made MacFarlane first aware of Matthew Lopez, speaking well of his fellow playwright. MacFarlane explored some of Lopez’s other works, including his widely produced “The Whipping Man,” and looked forward one day to working with the up and coming playwright.
MacFarlane also appeared off-Broadway in Keith Bunin’s “The Busy World is Hushed” opposite Jill Clayburgh and made his Broadway debut playing multiple parts in the award-winning revival of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart.” He went on to play Felix, one of the play’s two leads, in the production’s subsequent national tour. His work, though, has primarily been in television, where he was also a regular on FX’s “Over There” and scored guest spots on “Person of Interest,” “Smash,” and “The Night Shift,” to which he will return later this summer.
Of his five years and 90 episodes as part of “Brothers and Sisters,” he reports that “I learned so much about being in front of a camera from that experience, especially about the relationship between the writers and the actors, particularly as the writers are turning out a lot scripts in such a short time.”
Between television and theatrical gigs, MacFarlane has been working and performing in a one-person show he has developed with playwright Bunin called “Sam Bendrix at the Bon Soir,” which he has performed in Pittsburgh and San Diego. He plays a bartender at a swanky club in 1953 who imagines what it would be like to be the star performer, in which MacFarlane is accompanied by a small band and gets to perform snippets of some 32 songs from the swing, big band and Gershwin era.
For now, MacFarlane seems energized by the opportunity to explore the plethora of issues raised by Lopez’s drama, including how do we deal with our loneliness and how well can we really know someone who is offering friendship when we’re not really sure of where we are going ourselves. He’ll have until March 15 to accompany Jonathan and the audience on this road of discovery.
For information and tickets, contact the Hartford Stage box office at 860.527.5151 or visit the theater’s website at www.hartfordstage.org.