One thing the Ziggurat Theater Ensemble can't be faulted for is lack of ambition. In show after show the group has taken the richness of world mythology and combined it with a love of dance to create idiosyncratic spectacles -- fairytales we didn't know we had.
One thing the Ziggurat Theater Ensemble can’t be faulted for is lack of ambition. In show after show the group has taken the richness of world mythology and combined it with a love of dance to create idiosyncratic spectacles — fairytales we didn’t know we had. Its latest production “Fafalo!” is a fantasy with commedia style. Unfortunately, Suzanne Scott’s gorgeous costumes, Nyoman Setiawan’s evocative masks, a wonderful cast and some impressive puppets are undercut by slow pacing and a story that doesn’t quite compel.
The kingdom of Galliandra is looking to crown a new king, and to that end the chancellor Bogezmo (John Achorn) is having scholar Yungio (David Valdez) search through all their books of protocol to see who should inherit the throne. Both men are shocked when they find it is Fafalo (Jon Monastero), the lowly janitor of the city square, but he is made king anyway.
Fafalo initially enjoys the perks of power, but when he receives a demand from evil wizard Banjawi (Achorn) to meet with him, he sees the downside to the job. Banjawi wants Fafalo to give him a magical artifact or he will destroy Galliandra, and thus Fafalo’s test of leadership begins.
Monastero gives an able and witty perf, the hero as a conman/joker, but the character feels somewhat underwritten, less charming and intriguing than he might be. Achorn is delightful as the diplomatic if pompous Bogezmo, but is stuck with a stock villain role as Banjawi. Anna Heinl is graceful and sympathetic as “puzzle girl” Linga, and Julia Emelin is terrific and seems to channel Harpo Marx as the seemingly dim but surprisingly effective Quank. Valdez is quietly strong as Yungio, and is abrasively funny in his scenes as a Guard.
Writer/director Stephen Legawiec has much to be proud of in “Fafalo,” from its sumptuous look and great ensemble to little grace notes such as a bit where a chase becomes a dance, the various “arrivals” of Banjawi and a lovely sequence wherein Quank does battle using a plastic spoon. The show does feel long, however, and the dance sequences seem extraneous and repetitive.