Last weekend, the Delta Xi cast of Alpha Psi Omega opened The Fantasticks at the RPI Playhouse. While the performance had some rough edges, the entertainment value was not reduced; the story was light and funny, punctuated by a few serious and emotional scenes that gave the story weight. All in all, this show is definitely worth seeing.
The play is performed from a sparsely decorated platform that rests on the same floor as and very close to the audience, creating a more intimate feel than the Players’ normal stage. The relatively small cast of characters occasionally pokes through the fourth wall, sometimes interacting with audience members, the crew, or even the live orchestra, which is in full view to the right and accompanies the unamplified performers.
At first, the plot follows a typical love story with a boy and girl from feuding families. The Narrator, played by Chris Guyon, sets the scene with “Try to Remember,” a song now probably more well-known than the play itself. The lovestruck adolescents Matt and Luisa, played by Sean Chase ’14 and Erin Murphy ’13, live in adjacent houses separated by a wall (represented by the Mute, who is played by Marisa Gallego). Community actors Ken Ernstein and Dan Marsh play the two fathers, two men with very different philosophies on gardening (and parenting). After the first three songs, the play looks almost like a quirky rewrite of Romeo and Juliet.
Then the story turns itself sideways, heads in a fresh direction, and never looks back. The rest of the play consists of catchy music, rhyming dialogue, and even a couple of heartfelt moments towards the end. Excellent supporting performances are given by Jack Dowd, playing a old, doddering actor who talks more with the audience than the other characters, and Victor Cortes, whose physical comedy is over-the-top in the best way.
The acting from the leads was solid as well. Murphy plays a manic pixie dream girl with more depth than certain modern television shows; Chase’s character is just the right amount of awkward for that age. Guyon sings particularly well, especially on the low notes in “I Can See It” and “Try to Remember.”
The only issues were minor. At times, the vocals were difficult to hear over the live accompaniment, although they were still distinguishable with close listening. Some of the costumes could have used a little more attention to detail (like Chase’s black sneakers or some of Cortes’s props). The stage was a bit creaky, which distracted somewhat from quieter scenes. None of these are deal breakers, though; the play is one of the great musicals, and this cast does the script justice.
Additional shows will take place next weekend on September 13, 14, and 15 at the Playhouse. Tickets are $15 for general admission, or $10 for students and seniors.