The Hartford theater scene has been good to Matthew Macca. Six years ago, when he was still in high school, he landed the plum role of Eugene in the Neil Simon play "Brighton Beach Memoirs" at Playhouse on Park, in his hometown of West Hartford.
Now Macca, pictured above at center in blue jacket, is prat-falling, banging into walls and dropping his trousers in the frenzied production of "The Comedy of Errors" running at Hartford Stage through Feb. 12.
Macca plays a servant named Dromio whose life gets complicated when his long-lost twin brother (also named Dromio) turns up in the same Greek city where he works as the trusted right-hand man to a gentleman named Antipholus. As if that wasn't enough confusion, the other Dromio's master is also an Antipholus — they're twins too.
Macca attended West Hartford's Aiken Elementary School and then Hall High School, where "theater was the only extracurricular activity I was ever interested in."
"My father grew up in West Hartford, too," Macca says. "He's part of Macca Plumbing and Heating in Hartford, which was started by my grandfather. I think my father just knew that I wouldn't be joining the family business. It's a testament to how great my father is that it never even came up."
Macca studied theater at Boston University, establishing himself not just as an actor but as a playwright. When he graduated in May, he moved from Boston to another great theater town, Chicago.
Now he finds himself back in Connecticut, living with his parents again in his old home for a couple of months.
"I was still living in Boston when they did an open call [audition] for the whole Hartford Stage season," Macca recalled Monday. "When they called me back in October, I had just moved to Chicago." He'd auditioned for a couple of small roles in "The Comedy of Errors," but was soon considered for one of the leads.
For Macca's call-back audition, Hartford Stage had an odd request: they needed to know if he could dance in a full-blown Bollywood-style musical routine. "I couldn't leave Chicago just then," the actor says, "but I told them I'd actually done a Bollywood dance number in college, and could I send them a video?" A Dromio was born.
"This is a dream role. I'm having the time of my life," Macca says. "Physical comedy is something I really enjoy doing."
"He was very funny," the show's director (and Hartford Stage's Artistic Director) Darko Tresnjak said in an interview at the theater earlier this month, "so we went with the local actor." Eight of the nearly two
dozen "Comedy of Errors" cast members, including Macca, are still new to professional show business and haven't yet gotten their Actors Equity union cards. Especially when it does large-cast shows, Hartford Stage regularly gives performance opportunities to local actors. Six students from the University of Hartford's Hartt School are in "Comedy of Errors." Earlier this season, Hartford Stage gave the lead role in a new play, "Queens for a Year," to Vanessa R. Butler, known for her work with the small local theater Hartbeat Ensemble.
Macca says the "Comedy of Errors" cast is a "really eclectic group: Hartt students, people who specialize in musical theater, others who focus on Shakespeare. There are strong performers in every category."
Does he have any favorite bits in the show, which is packed to the gills with sight gags and acrobatic clowning? "I love when Adriana [the wife of one of the Antipholuses, played by Jolly Abraham] throws fish at me. Jolly is so funny. She likes to keep me guessing. I don't know when the fish are going to arrive, or where she's going to throw them. She totally has an arm, and she's not afraid to use it."
"THE COMEDY OF ERRORS" by William Shakespeare, is at Hartford Stage through Feb. 12. Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with added 2 p.m. matinees on Feb. 4 and 11, plus an added 7:30 p.m. Sunday performance on Jan. 29. Tickets are $25 to $90, $20 for students. 860-527-5151, hartfordstage.org.