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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Blending myth, dance, and commedia dell 'arte, director and playwright Stephen Legawiec has constructed a unique theater experience using the multiple talents of his players, the extraordinary masks created by Balinese artist Nyoman Setiawan, and huge puppet figures made by Legawiec himself.
The players, dressed in colorful robes and whimsical hats created by designer Suzanne Scott, mill around before the play begins, clowning with the audience and with each other. Their masks, made of pule wood and goatskin, extend from the hairline to the lower lip, with painted eyebrows and narrowly slanted openings that hide their eyes. Thus their faces are largely expressionless, and they must use their bodies to convey their thoughts and emotions, which they do exquisitely.
Jon Monastero, who plays Fafalo, the town sweeper, is the only member of the troupe who plays only one role; the five other players transform themselves as many as six times each. Fafalo, who is always Fafalo, is, however, transformed by an arcane law into the ruler of their country of Galliandra, and he uses his new position to swagger and preen, choosing to be called "Your Sumptuousness." He also drives a hybrid vehicle: half horse and half camel. But he rises to the occasion when Galliandra is threatened by the green- faced sorcerer Banjawi (John Achorn) and his ferocious red dragon. ("He's worse than evil," Fafalo says. "He's sarcastic!")
There is a love story as well, between Linga, the Puzzle Girl (played by the delicate Anna Heinl) and Yungio, the palace scholar (David Valdez) who is many classes above her and therefore out of reach. And there is a mute prankster, Quank (a wonderful mime, Julia Emelin), who leads a man from the audience to mimic her movements and fight a duel with a pair of plastic spoons.
As the simple plot progresses, a waif-like ballerina and choreographer, Li-Ann Lim, dances the time of day: Night, Dawn, and Sunset. Stage lighting by Brandon Baruch enhances the moods she creates and provides a soft counterpoint to the generally hectic activity of the players. Still another aspect of time is encountered in Fafalo's wrist-watch-sun-dial, which, of course, he has forgotten to wind.
Fafalo! tells a simplistic story, as myths usually do. It makes a hero of a common man, allowing him to foil corruption and greed and save his community. And it involves talented artists in slapstick tomfoolery. This is theater for people who prefer the circus. And for their kids and grandkids.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide