One can’t help having feelings of apprehension when a play titled The Fantasticks. However, it has been running off-Broadway since 1960, so expectations can tossed out the window. Tom Jones (not the one you’re thinking of) and Harvey Schmidt take cues from Rostand’s Les Romanesques in this two-act musical comedy, currently playing at the Retro Dome.
In any given generation, kids do the opposite of what their parents tell them to do. Naive 16-year-old Luisa (Ashely Rae Little) and still-wet-behind-the-ears Matt (Frankie Mulcahy) are rapt with teenage love. Their disapproving mothers, Bellomy (Linda Covington) and Hucklebee (Linda Piccone), have built a wall (played by Isai Centeno—you read right, the wall is a mute character) between the neighboring lovers.
The hatred between the two mothers is just a fabrication; they only act like enemies to encourage the budding relationship. They concoct a plan and stage a fake abduction of Luisa, so Matt can heroically rescue her to prove his worth and bring the families together. The mothers get in touch with El Gallo (Stephen Guggenheim), a villainous rogue, who enlists the help of Henry (Jerry McAllister), an aging actor with delusions of grandeur, and Mortimer (Richard Sanchez), an actor only known for his dying scenes. The plan goes off without a hitch and the first act ends on a high note.
A sense of reality comes into play by the second act. What started out as a light-hearted, sometimes silly love story turns into a sobering drama. The wall is torn down. Matt realizes he hasn’t even seen the world. Luisa is disillusioned because Matt doesn’t seem to be the knight in shining armor she’d always dreamed of. The mothers fight about how to keep the garden they now share. The couple break up and learn what the real world is all about.
On the surface, The Fantasticks might be dismissed as outdated. And in some ways, it is. It takes the basic boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl formula and adds a couple of throwaway songs and corny humor (although there were times when I was the only one laughing in the theater). But by the end, there was a real message of how reality can wreak havoc on fantasy. The end result is never how it was anticipated. Your boyfriend makes gross noises. Your girlfriend has flaws. People can be deceptive and growing up also means growing wise.
Through Oct 24
The Retro Dome, San Jose