Matt (Adam Weeks) and Luisa (Rebekkah Harms) discover a deeper truth about love in ‘The Fantasticks’.
The Fantasticks: Hurt and Growth
by Logan Hiskey
In The Lion King, the characters Rafiki and Simba discuss change and facing past hurts. Rafiki then whacks Simba on the head with his stick. Confused, Simba asks why Rafiki did such a thing.
“Doesn’t matter, it’s in the past,” Rafiki says.
“Yeah, but it still hurts,” Simba replies as he rubs his head.
“Oh yes, the past can hurt,” Rafiki answers. “But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” Again, Rafiki swings his stick at Simba, but this time Simba ducks out of the way.
In this scene Rafiki teaches Simba a very valuable lesson about hurt. It exists, whether it is past, present, or future.
Likewise, this idea is one of the predominant themes of the show. In the opening song “Try to Remember,” the narrator, El Gallo, defines the theme when he says, “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow.” These words are best exemplified by the two main characters, Matt and Luisa, and their journey through the play. They start as young, foolish, and myopic lovers so engrossed in their fantasies and idealization of romance that their parents label them “fantastic!”
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In Act One, everything is practically perfect and idyllic: the moonlit sky, the thrilling relationship hidden from their “feuding” fathers (or mothers), the rescue from an abduction, and then happily ever after.
However, it does not end at that moment, for The Fantasticks is a coming-of-age story. At the beginning of Act Two, El Gallo dispels the moonlight and says,
“life never ends in the moonlit night;
And despite what pretty poets say,
The night is only half the day.”
Matt and Luisa must learn and mature the hard way. The harsh sun brings to light their flaws and differences, and the two lovers become disappointed that the delights of romance do not last. After they realize their dissatisfaction in each other, they separate and strive to satisfy their naïve desires elsewhere. And here, with their separation, the hurt begins. They find what they were looking for, but it only brings a new onset of pain for both Matt and Luisa.
But there is good news. Rafiki’s wisdom rings true. Through their hurt, they are no longer hollow, for they have learned and grown from it. After their reunion, their relationship matures. They admit to their foolishness and mistakes, forgive one another, and begin to love unselfishly.
The idea of growing through hurt may seem unfair or confusing because it is. El Gallo speaks on this and calls it a “curious paradox.” He likens it to the changing of seasons when he says, “Who understands why Spring is born out of Winter’s laboring pain? Or why we all must die a bit before we grow again.”
This theme is one reason why The Fantasticks is such a universally-loved play and is the longest-running musical in the world. Anyone can find a bit of themselves in Matt or Luisa, for everyone has experienced pain in some fashion, but like Rafiki says, it depends on what one does with it. And in accordance with biblical truth, Scripture says that there is an appointed time for everything, which includes seasons of love and laughter, but also of hurt and sadness (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8). So it should not come as a surprise when suffering, trials, and hurt come along (1 Peter 4:12). But the Apostle Paul offers some encouragement when he says that through Christ, times of hurt and tribulation bring about perseverance, proven character, and hope (Romans 5:3–4). Therefore, The Fantasticks offers a wonderful reflection of these truths that hurt is bound to happen, but there is hope that growth can follow.
Logan Hiskey plays Mortimer, the Man Who Dies, along with being dramaturg for Calvary’s production of ‘The Fantasticks’.