Review of “The Fantasticks” at The Village Players TheatreWritten by Chad Meredith | | firstname.lastname@example.org
What if Romeo and Juliet’s parents would have wanted them marry? In “The Fantasticks,” two fathers, one with a daughter, the other with a son, arrange to have their offspring fall in love. In the end, the two lovebirds (and their parents) discover that love is more complex than a business arrangement or a moonlit walk. For three weeks, Director Paul Palmisano delighted full houses to a fantastic production. Dave Dysard seduced the audience into trusting El Gallo.
From the moment Dysard entered, he owned the production. When El Gallo told the audience to remember when they were young, Dysard’s smooth articulation manipulated their minds. As El Gallo sang, Dysard’s deep voice enchanted them. Dysard danced figurative and literal circles around the other actors. The two fathers, Hucklebee (David Engel) and Bellomy (Tom Wagner), were hilarious.
Engel’s no-nonsense demeanor was comical, yet relatable. Wagner made Bellomy’s emotions entertainingly exuberant. In the song “Plant A Radish,” the clash of their acting styles created captivating chemistry. The parents’ bickering was more absorbing than the story’s central couple. The same is true for the two professional actors, Henry (Larry Farley) and Mortimer (Paul Palmisano).
Farley’s confident demeanor made Henry the epitome of a Shakespearean actor. As Henry incorrectly quoted Shakespeare, the gusto in Farley’s voice made the audience burst from their seats. Even though Henry is the over-dramatic actor stock character, Farley’s performance made him believable. Palmisano was hysterical as Mortimer, Henry’s touched sidekick. Farley and Palmisano consistently generated the loudest reactions from the audience. Even though it is the longest-running musical in the history of American theatre, “The Fantasticks” is not without flaws.
With the exception of El Gallo, the characters are flat. Luisa is weak-willed. Matt lacks a unique personality. While the fathers have the best intentions for the couple, they are underdeveloped. While the Shakespeare quotations are cleverly integrated, the songs are forgettable. In one scene, there is an outdated and stereotypical depiction of Native Americans. Despite this musical’s shortcomings, the cast and crew of “The Fantasticks” gave their audience an unforgettable production.
“The Fantasticks” concludes the 53rd season of the Village Players Theatre. Its 54th Season begins on Sept. 10, with “Play On!” a comedy by Rick Abbott.