Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
First staged in 1959, the play is beginning to show its age. The tale of two fathers who pretend to feud in order to lure their children into falling in love, and who enlist a group of fake bandits to feign the attempted abduction/rape of the daughter in order to give the son an opportunity to rescue her, feels a bit strange in an era which recognizes rape and other sexual abuse as horrific crimes, and where the notion of women as helpless victims and men as essential protectors seems archaic. These father characters are supposed to strike us as cute and foolish, but today we would report them to Child Protective Services.
Like other plays that incorporate dated social attitudes, (including The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice), any modern production of The Fantasticks needs a creative strategy to overcome this weighty baggage. Unfortunately, the Super Summer Theatre Studios and Five Stars Entertainment production doesn't bring anything fresh to the table. Under Bill Fayne's direction, the production is soulful and sincere, but largely uninspired. It is also quite static, with minimal choreography. Watching naive youngsters sing sweet songs becomes cloying rather quickly when there is no dynamism on the stage. The small amount of choreography is well executed by Stephen Rinck and John Wennstrom, who deliver respectable performances as the foolish fathers, although they look and act more like grandfathers. (Perhaps they conceived their children very late in life.)
There are, however, two bright spots in this production, and they are bright indeedso much so that every acting student in southern Nevada should make a beeline for this tiny black box theatre tucked away in an industrial district. In the roles of threadbare itinerant actors who agree to play the bandits in the fake abduction, veteran performers Lou De Meis and Rick Ginn show us what great acting is all about. Whenever they are on stage, the production leaps to a professional level. What a treat it would be if both of these actors could return to the local stage in a production of Shakespeare or another classical play.
Another performer worth watching is Madison Simpson as The Mute. Even without a word of dialogue, Simpson's expressive face, graceful and economic stage movement, and natural presence make her a standout in every scene.
The Fantasticks, through November 19, 2017 (Thursday-Saturday at 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm) at the Super Summer Theatre Studios, 4340 S. Valley View Dr., Las Vegas NV. For tickets or further information, go to www.supersummerthatre.org.
Cast and Musicians