10/26/23 By Haley Clough
You can always tell when someone is doing what they are meant to do. If you saw Emerson’s Musical Theatre Society perform “Falsettos” this weekend, it was clear that everyone onstage was meant to perform.
“Falsettos,” published in 1992, stars Marvin (Chad Fruscione) and his ex-wife, Trina (Sydney Simenauer), his lover, Whizzer (Matthew Ryan), and his son, Jason (Matty Ishayik). Coming to the aid of the tumultuous family is Mendel (Alex Bunis), Marvin’s ex-psychiatrist and Trina’s new lover, and the two lovely lesbians next door: Dr. Charlotte (Amaris Rios) and wishful baker Cordelia (Haley Kirchoff).
The show addresses the AIDS epidemic, gender roles, Judaism and the LGBTQ+ community. Although set in the 1970s, it could not be more relevant than it is today. “This show is timeless,” said Zachary Demers, a self-proclaimed “Falsettos” scholar. “A show about the terrible things we do for love is so important … but I also think sharing Jewish stories with a respect for heritage and respect for identity and realism is really unseen. … I think that [the fact] we’re taking it seriously is a gift.”
The ones to thank for that are Maddie Thorpe and Connor Spring, director and assistant director of the production. Thorpe, who dedicated this show to the queer lives lost in the AIDS epidemic, said the care with which “Falsettos” was handled was vital.
“Everybody on the cast is either queer or Jewish or both, and so this story really really means a lot to everybody involved,” they said. “We all have the same heart we’re putting into it, and that’s what really brought us together.”
Beyond the brilliance with which the cast and crew handled the themes, there was the talent. From the downbeat of the show to the standing ovation, the small but mighty cast was one passionate, indomitable machine. The energy was infectious.
Sydney Simenauer’s performance of Trina was a masterclass. Simenauer seems to have a keen awareness of Trina’s subtleties and a natural ability to shine. Her vocals are rich, and her acting is immersive; she is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Playing her opposite, Marvin, was Chad Fruscione. The emotion and proficiency with which Fruscione performed were breathtaking. On playing Marvin, Fruscione said, “I am a queer Jewish person playing a queer Jewish person who dies of AIDS, so you know, it’s very brutal.” But he said, “I have felt very connected to this group of people,” and that is what made it possible to step back from such a difficult role at the end of the day.
No theme encapsulates the show more than love. For the cast and the crew, that is what theater is all about. In the words of Amaris Rios: “You never stop learning and growing … [Falsettos] is … learning how to find love in [hard times], and empathy within that at the same time.” Emerson’s Falsettos was what we need right now.
To the cast and crew of “Falsettos,” thank you and bravo.