Review: 'Rear Window' at Hartford Stage

Chris Peterson

"I didn’t know their names. I’d never heard their voices. I didn’t even know them by sight, strictly speaking, for their faces were too small to fill in with identifiable features at that distance. Yet I could have constructed a timetable of their comings and goings, their daily habits and activities. They were the rear-window dwellers around me."

Kevin Bacon in "Rear Window" at Hartford Stage  Photo: Joan Marcus

This is the opening paragraph of "It Could Be Murder", Cornell Woolrich's short story which would serve as the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Rear Window, which has been adapted into a perfectly suspenseful and engaging production which opened tonight at Hartford Stage. 

While the plot, for the most part, follows Woolrich's writing, fans of Hitchcock's masterpiece won't be disappointed with what director Darko Tresnjak has put together. 

Hartford Stage describes the story as, "A sweltering New York summer. A man confined to his wheelchair spends hour after hour watching his neighbors. Is he imagining things, or has he witnessed a murder?"

As the broken-legged, wheelchair bound Jeffries, Kevin Bacon erases any wonderment of seeing a big Hollywood star in the flesh, with his gritty and penetrating performance. Serving more as a conduit for those characters around him, Mr. Bacon allows the audience to feel the tension of a man who is either on to something or possibly losing his mind.....maybe both.

One major difference from both the film and original text is the character of Sam, boldly played by McKinley Belcher III. While some of the current event tie-ins felt forced at times, the character is a striking addition to the story. 

Walking the line of likable comic relief and dis-likable needle, John Bedford Lloyd turns in a solid performance as does Melinda Page Hamilton playing two roles that I won't state here because that would give too much away.

And while resembling the furthest thing from Raymond Burr, Robert Stanton serves as a brilliant casting choice as a man pushed to the brink and under suspicion. 

"Rear Window" at Hartford Stage   Photo: Joan Marcus

The final character in this stunning production has no dialogue at all but might be the most memorable, and that is the glorious set design from Alexander Dodge. Mr. Dodge has raised his very high standard to even greater heights with a design that features one of the most awe inspiring transitions I've seen on stage. The movement actually drew gasps and applause from the audience. 

Also adding to the overall tone are Linda Cho's smart and symbolic costume design, York Kennedy's fitting lighting design and Jane Shaw's tension building sound. 

For those lucky enough to have tickets for this sold out limited run, they're in store for quite an experience. Keith Reddin's adaptation is much more than just a crime story, it's a statement on our voyeuristic culture and "need to know" obsessions. I have a feeling that  Darko Tresnjak's latest master work will stay with me for some time. 

REAR WINDOW features an ensemble of nine, including Dan Bender, Erik Bloomquist, Ashley Croce, Roy Donnelly, Barbara Gallow, Caitlin Harrity, William Squier and Quinn Warren.

The production stage manager is James Harker.

The sold out production runs through Nov. 15.