Lake Tahoe Shakespeare festival brings the love to Sand Harbor

Love is the theme for the 43rd Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, with performances of “The Fantasticks” and “Romeo and Juliet,” at Sand Harbor State Park through Aug. 23.

“The Fantasticks” tells the story of a young man and the girl next door whose feuding fathers have built a wall to keep them apart, but nonetheless, the two fall in love and dream of being together.

“It’s another telling of Romeo and Juliet,” said audience member John DiBiasi, of Scottsdale, Ariz. “It’s probably very intentional that they put ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Fantasticks’ opposite each other, because the story is basically the same.”

Yet, unlike the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers in “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Fantasticks” is mostly a light, breezy story — with a humorous twist.

The fathers’ feud is a sham, created so their children, Matt and Luisa, would fall in love. Hijinks inevitably follow as the dads plot to end the fake feud without the children finding out.

“You know when you go see a show and it doesn’t quite live up to what you think it’s going to be, but this was more than I expected,” said audience member Kara Franklin, of Garland, Texas. “Everybody should come because it’s really fun.”

She and other audience members praised the actors’ performances, singing abilities and enthusiasm.

“There’s a really good camaraderie in the group, and with a small group like this, there is nowhere to hide,” said DiBiasi, referring to the actors. “It really has to be a strong team. Like a baseball team, the second baseman has to be on the base when the shortstop is going to throw him the ball. They really can’t miss.”

While not listed as a cast member, Sand Harbor State Park — where the performance takes place — plays a role in the musical. Its trees help root outdoor scenes, its darkening sky indicates the change in mood when things start to go awry, and its overhead birds lend their voices to the musical’s songs.

“It’s just a beautiful setting,” reflected Reno resident Suzette Blanke. “Anybody can be inside in an any town, but only here can you be outside in the sand watching a play.”

Having originally opened in May 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York and its subsequent rival at Snapple Theater Center, “The Fantasticks” is the world’s longest-running musical.

When asked what makes “The Fantasticks” an enduring tale, Franklin said: “It’s a timeless story. If you have ever been in love, you can identify with this story.”

Beyond the love story, the musical does touch on themes of disillusionment, maturity and consequences of one’s actions.

Performances of the “The Fantasticks” and “Romeo and Juliet,” as part of the festival’s 43rd anniversary, run until Aug. 23 at Sand Harbor State Park.


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