REVIEW: ‘The Fantasticks’ at Algonquin Arts Theatre

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REVIEW BY KAREN MEISTER
     Whimsical, wild and wacky are the adjectives that come to mind to describe the latest production at the Algonquin Arts Theatre. “The Fantasticks” is also funny, innocent, and very nostalgic. It is a simple story, with a seemingly simple plot, but do not be deceived for there are several powerful themes throughout the play, where fantasy and reality collide with each other. With the use of imagination. the audience can denote and connotate underlying themes.

The Fantasticks is an allegorical musical that primarily focuses on the young love between a boy named Matt and his nextdoor neighbor Luisa. Each has a meddling father who connive together by plotting and deceiving the two lovers, even to the point of hiring a gallant and enigmatic man [El Gallo] and his very eccentric assistants to set up a more deceiving plan.

For a time, the young protagonists find their romance exciting, however, El Gallo weaken. Matt is only twenty years old and decides he needs to explore the world, while Luisa is a mere sixteen and needs to grow up a bit; they both need to  face reality in the cold cruel world.

There are several Shakespearean overtones visible in this simple plot. One of El Gallo’s bizarre assistant dresses in Shakespearean attire while acting as the madman Don Quixote. Another reference is to Romeo and Juliet behavior. The second assistant is in Native American attire and also has Quixote behavior.

This 1960 “old fashioned” musical, which can be seen as “outdated” in this day and age is still popular since the love of two people is timeless and “without a hurt, the heart is hollow.”

Now forward to 2017! The performance at the Algonquin has a fabulously crafted cast of eight members, along with beautiful music and lyrics; the most popular being “Try to Remember.” I can still hear Luisa’s extraordinary voice and the musical responses from Matt. The unique set is so cleverly constructed and adapts to each scene. There some very creative members on the production staff.

This long running off-Broadway classic has been seen by audiences for the last 57 years. Many productions followed, as well as television and film versions. The current version at the Algonquin is done professionally in every way. It is not easy to be so eccentric!

So, if you are looking for a fun and quite strange evening, and fantasy is your thing, then this wild and crazy story is for you.

The Fantasticks will be at the theater from August 11-20. The Algonquin is located at 173 Main Street, Manasquan. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office 732-528-9211, or by email boxoffice@algonquinarts.org.

[PHOTO COURTESY OF SHANNON REDNOUR / shannonrednour.com]