Crititque of The Produciton The Fantasticks
*Works Cited Not Included
If there is truly tradition to be found among the great theatres both on and off Broadway, then certainly the Sullivan Street Playhouse and its long running production of The Fantasticks rates as one of the most celebrated of New York theatrical traditions. Maintaining its place as the longest running production Off Broadway, The Fantasticks remains an enchanting and insightful tale of both young love and bitter disillusionment. It also reminds one, in this age of spectacle and the mega-musical, how powerful and truly inspiring theatre itself can be. Clearly, one of the great strengths of this production and a large part of its appeal for audiences over the last four decades lies in the fact that both the story and the style of presentation compliment each other so completely. Here we find the non-essentials are stripped away, and we are left to rely simply on the imagination of both the audience and the performers to create a magical evening.
The story of The Fantasticks, written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt and also based upon Edmond Rostand's play Les Romanesques, concerns itself with the pairing of two young lovers, appropriately enough, the Boy and the Girl. As their story begins to unfold, as told to us by the Narrator (El Gallo), we quickly come to recognize both the Boy and Girl as specific characters with specific concerns, but at the same time we see them as every boy and girl that have ever fallen in love. We see the Boy's unwavering devotion and the Girl's romantic idealism and even though their fathers have built a wall between them, the zealous young lovers will let nothing stand in the way of their passion. Just as the story might begin to fall into predictability, we discover the Fathers have actually contrived to build this wall between their children for the sole purpose of bringing them together as opposed to keeping them apart. In a very humorous, but insightful duet "Never Say No," the Fathers explain their intentions for arranging their children's marriage, all the while appearing the typical, disapproving parents. At this point, the Narrator becomes more actively involved in the action of the story and convinces the Fathers that the only way to truly insure their children's pairing is to stage an abduction of the Girl, thereby allowing the Boy to save her and the two to live happily ever after. Enlisting the help of a couple of ancient traveling players, the Fathers and El Gallo do indeed stage a rather miserable kidnapping, which works perfectly in convincing the Boy and Girl they do truly love one another and are destined to be together forever. All of this occurs before intermission, so what's left to tell in the second act? Simply, how life sets in, how happily ever after seldom ends happily, and whether we like it or not, how pain and heartbreak are an essential part of real love.
It is really in the telling of the second act...