Hunter Intro to Theatre

The Fantasticks reviewed by Marisa Croce

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    Marisa
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    At first glance, the musical The Fantasticks may resemble Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; two tales of adolescent lovers, forbidden from each other by their families. However, The Fantasticks throws in a few twists, and makes a point to exemplify the growth of the two lovers. Luisa and Matt’s fathers are faking the entire feud, knowing their children will fall in love merely because it is forbidden. Once the boy and girl discover their marriage was arranged, their relationship falls to shambles, and the two part ways to try and find better, more exciting things. There are a few significant moments throughout the play that step outside the comedic light and truly depict the growth of Matt and Luisa. During the song “Metaphor,” Matt is singing of how lovely he finds Luisa to be, romanticizing her, and she childishly screams and faints in response. In a section of the song “Round and Round” (sung by the bandit Luisa falls for and herself), the bandit’s hand controls Luisa’s head through slightly unnerving choreography. And just as the final song is beginning, a soft light breaks on the boy and girl as they speak to each other, paralyzing the audience so the song may commence. In each of these three moments, the heavier coming-of-age story extends out beyond the anecdotal dialogue of the comedy and becomes more evident.

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    Right in the middle of a musical number, while all eyes are on our singer, Matt, a high- pitched shriek runs through the ears of the audience. Heads turn to find Luisa fainting in an extremely animated fashion. The song continues, and a few more beautifully-sung compliments slowly awaken her again. This childlike reaction to Matt’s flattery shows how overwhelming this new love is for her. Her swoon is carefully choreographed, which dramatizes it, and immediately draws one’s attention to it.

    Matt is on the other end of the stage, on the other side of a wall dividing he and Luisa, singing metaphor after metaphor, compliment after compliment. This performance is on a thrust stage, and Matt is downstage left on the edge of the audience. Luisa is upstage right, twirling her rose and stroking her hair. Immediately following her cry, the audience then turns to Matt, eager to see his reaction—but Matt is still singing, talking about her instead of to her, romanticizing her, while she is standing on the other side of the wall squealing girlishly at flattery. The distance between the two of them during this moment makes their immaturity more apparent. The way Luisa’s shriek tramples over the song gives it the same effect as a toddler’s cry breaking silence, and Matt’s faraway stare whilst singing illustrates his naive idealization of Luisa.

    This innocent love doesn’t last. Soon they find out their fathers had carefully planned for them to fall in love all along. Luisa cringes at the sound of the phrase “marriage of convenience,” and the two begin to argue. The charm and novelty of the forbidden love was ruined, and they couldn’t stand to be with one another anymore. After parting ways, Luisa goes off to chase after the love of a handsome older bandit who promises to show her the world. The song “Round and

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    Round” is performed; a song that quickens its pace progressively. At a quite climatic point Luisa’s head begins to jerk and roll around in correlation with the bandit’s hand movements. This puppeteer-like choreography perfectly depicts how easily manipulated Luisa is. She gets intoxicated by the bandit’s promises. She truly believes that he will return in the morning to take her on adventures, while in actuality he is just taking advantage of her. She swoons over him in the same way she did Matt: a faraway stare, a sparkle in her eye. But she is not dazzled by the men themselves. She thinks she is, but in truth she merely craves their attention. This becomes more clear as her head moves around involuntarily.

    Red light descends upon Luisa while she is doing this inescapable dance. This choice of color is curious, and certainly deserves some analysis. It does not seem to be random at all. Luisa and the bandit’s somewhat disturbing moment may not have been as disturbing had the lights been a different color. The lighting is actually red throughout this entire number, but it seems to be fully realized the moment the creepy, controlled choreography begins. Red is a strong color. It may represent power, seduction/lust, evil; all relevant reflections of what is happening on stage in this instant.

    The lighting of the last musical number is significant as well. Right before the song “They Were You” begins to play, there is a single piano chord that is played as the two lovers lock eyes from either end of the stage. As this is happening, a wan light unfolds on them. This mirrors the knowledge that has now dawned on them; their newfound understanding of love. This is a very interesting portrayal of maturing adolescents. The acting in this particular moment is noteworthy as well. Both performers create a shift in their attitude without disturbing the characters’ personalities. Luisa and Matt are both still young and playful, but as that piano chord hits, a new sense of awareness unfolds on their faces, and this is very clear for the audience.

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    Each of these three significant moments truly elucidates the less-prominent theme of entering adulthood which underlies the comedy. The Fantasticks is truly about the maturing of two adolescents in love. The play is successfully entertaining, inducing laughter throughout, but through the use of choreography, lighting, and acting, three significant moments are created that really show the play’s deeper plot outside of the literal events.

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