A story about forbidden lovers, with plot twists and turns, will open the theatre season at SUNY Oswego when “The Fantasticks” opens Oct. 17 in Waterman Theatre.

“‘The Fantasticks’ tells a story about our human need for companionship and our infinite ability to make mistakes,” said Amy Lynn Budd, a new theatre faculty member who directs the production. “The play lets audiences experience laughter and heartache -- sometimes simultaneously -- because it believes in our ability to learn from those mistakes and forgive one another.”

The musical draws inspiration from Edmond Rostand's “Les Romanesques,” as well as William Shakespeare’s works “Romeo and Juliet” and the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, the play-within-a-play in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” With music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by Tom Jones, it debuted off-Broadway in 1960 and has remained popular over the decades.

The plot concerns Matt (Nick Sweet) and Luisa (Abby Hines), who fall in love despite their respective feuding fathers, Hucklebee (Philip Jones) and Bellomy (Damon Fletcher). Schemes are hatched, complications arise and the story explores how much true love can conquer.

“All the characters function in different kinds of partnerships, but ‘The Fantasticks’ especially examines how the bonds between children and parents change as new families form when children grow up,” Budd said of the play, which is one of the most performed musicals in the world. “These experiences are so universal to the human condition that the play works in all kinds of cultural settings, all over the world.”

Alan Martin of Oswego’s music faculty provides musical direction for the play, which is well-known for its songs, especially “Try to Remember.” 

“The lyrics and melodies in this musical caught my mind,” said Chaeyoon Kim, which made her interested in auditioning. She landed an intriguing and challenging role as The Mute, a character that, among other things, represents a wall between the feuding families but -- despite not speaking -- has a large impact on the action. 

“She doesn't speak but she is in charge of every action on the stage like a director of a play,” Kim said. “She always knows what will happen next.”

Other cast members include Salvatore Sperrazza as El Gallo, Marc Arricale as Henry and Ryan Pacheco as Mortimer.

Large-scale effort

Budd said that Ola Kraszpulska, chair of the theatre department, added to the ambiance by developing a fantastic setting that “evokes an outdoor performance at a lakeside, and we sometimes use everyday objects in unexpected ways,” Budd said. “I think this will engage the audience's imaginations.”

The overall effort in developing a special look, feel and sound for this production involved dozens of SUNY Oswego students working on costumes, scenery and props -- as well as working in everything from audio production to moving scenery.

“Everyone on campus probably knows someone that hemmed pants or helped paint the stage floor,” Budd noted. “These details are vital. It's a live experience made by and for our campus community.”

In addition to the Oct. 17 opening, the production will have 7:30 p.m. curtains on Oct. 18, 24, 25 and 26, the latter dates as part of the college’s Family and Friends Weekend activities. The show also will have an Oct. 16 preview performance at 7:30 p.m., which is free for students, $5 for all others.

“You could have an equally good time seeing this play with friends, on a date or with visiting family members,” Budd said. “It's funny, romantic, irreverent, and thoughtful.” 

Tickets for the regular run cost $15 (with a special $12 Family and Friends Weekend rate) for the general public, faculty and staff, and $5 for SUNY Oswego students. Tickets are available online, at any campus box office or by calling 315-312-3073.