The show has come together, and I’ve had a chance to think about the content rather than the form.
While it is true that I loved The Fantasticks during my college years with all the intensity of youth or young adulthood, I know there was something I responded to more seriously, further in the recesses of my consciousness. It was hard to distinguish that response from all the other emotional reactions upon first seeing the performances and hearing the music. But my attachment to this musical parable gradually became founded on the truth of its message.
I don’t even have to use lines from the play to explain what I began to know to be true. While watching an early episode of Criminal Minds a number of years ago, I found my heart pounding at the quotation uttered by one of the characters at the end of the show. This convention has been used throughout the series, but never have I responded so viscerally. The quotation, by Kahlil Gibran, spoke eloquently to the child in me who felt the pain of never having been normal. I vacillated between between cherishing, like Luisa, a kind of “specialness” and praying to be left alone so that I might achieve in my later life at least some form of normalcy. There was nothing inherently wrong with me, I grew to learn, but people from the outside world exerted their will over me in ways that I felt unable to control, and there was no El Gallo to ensure that I immediately learned an appropriate lesson.
But now, when I see Matt and Luisa endure the trials of their forays “beyond that road” in order to grow into more complex, insightful, and empathetic people, I can reflect on my own life and know that I, like them, somehow found a path. It has taken a lifetime, not the two-hour span of a musical, but the result remains the same, and like Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” that has made all the difference. So when I see The Fantasticks, I laugh and I cry and I remember. And the ending always brings Gibran’s words to mind:
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls. The most massive characters are seared with scars.”