by Lillian Meredith · August 15, 2014
You’ve probably never heard of anyone involved in FORTUNA FANTASIA. That’s because they are all still at Yale undergrad. Every single bio in the program begins with “recently graduated from Yale,” or “is a rising senior,” or, incredibly, “is a rising junior.” Don’t let that fool you, though – these kids are some of the most professional, talented, and exciting artists I’ve seen in a long time, and the play they’ve created is the best I’ve seen at FringeNYC.
FORTUNA FANTASIA is a weird, funny, occasionally surreal romp through one couple’s break-up and ultimate reunion. In the meantime, they’re stuck together in a one-bedroom apartment in Baltimore as they both attempt to date other people. Guiding us through these proceedings is The Ringmaster, a man who frolics in a suit, watches every scene from the audience, and narrates the proceedings in rhyming limericks. It could seem gimmicky, except that it’s so smartly written, so sweetly aware of the many little things that lead to bigger moments, that lead to more moments, the unknown circumstances that lead us to a place where we have to look around and ask: how did we get here?
Playwright Jesse Schreck has a remarkable play on his hands. That is not to say it is without flaws. The trope of the crazy new girlfriend is pretty tired and offensive, but that doesn’t detract from the experience of the piece as a whole. I have no doubt that after he graduates from Yale this year, he will grow into a formidable playwright of note.
Also, pay close attention to the career of Chandler Rosenthal, whose effortless, funny, and complicated portrayal of Claire was one of the finest pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. She simply shines, and seems utterly at home on the stage. Her counterpart Paul Hinkes as ex-boyfriend Jeffrey is affable, funny, and a perfect leading man – they have the kind of chemistry that audiences hope to find and rarely do. Jacob Osborne is hilarious as the new boyfriend with an inexplicable Russian accent. It helps that his text is terrifically bizarre but never self-conscious, and he was a major highlight of the evening. Both Juliana Canfield as the new girlfriend and Jeremy Weiss as the Ringmaster are enjoyable and dedicated. It was such a pleasure to see such a cohesive, caring, and connected ensemble work together. Director (and rising junior) Nailah Harper-Malveaux stages the play beautifully, creating a beautiful world full of magic and humor and excellent timing. Look out for this group. I can’t wait to see what they do next.