Plot


Act One

El Gallo, the narrator, welcomes the audience to the show while the actors set up the stage, and asks them to try to remember a time when they were young and innocent and in love (“Try to Remember”). Then, he introduces our protagonists: two adolescents named Matt and Luisa. Their houses are next door to one another, and are separated by a wall (played by the Mute). Despite their respective fathers’ insistence that they shouldn’t speak with each other on account of an ongoing feud, Matt and Luisa fall in love with one another. From either side of the thick wall, Matt and Luisa court. Sweet and hopeful, Luisa tells the audience about the many things she dreams of doing in her life (“Much More”), while poetic Matt describes his love in verse and metaphor (“Metaphor”). In whispers, the two lovers discuss Luisa's fantasy that Matt will, one day, rescue her. Nearby, Matt’s father Hucklebee appears and shares his philosophy of life with the audience. His philosophy also applies to his passion for gardening: “Moderation. That’s the moral.” Hucklebee calls Matt over, and informs him that he’s found Matt a wife. Horrified, Matt refuses to wed his father’s choice, informing his father that when he gets married, it will be on his own terms. On the other side of the wall, Luisa’s father, Bellomy appears, and shares his philosophy of life (and gardening): lots of water. He summons Luisa and sends her inside.

Huck and Bell, now alone, scramble up the wall and embrace -- their plan has succeeded! The two men had plotted for their children to fall in love, and used reverse psychology (such as forbidding their love and building a wall between them) to get the two young people together. They celebrate their triumph, explaining, “To manipulate children, you merely say no.” They celebrate their certain success (“Never Say No”). The only piece of the puzzle left to solve is how to end this false feud between the families. Huck informs Bellomy that he has hired El Gallo to arrange a false abduction of Luisa. El Gallo enters and explains the broad, theatrical idea of the abduction, and then presents options for various types of attempted “rapes” he is capable of staging, with the expectation that the fathers select from amongst them (“It Depends on What You Pay”). Huck and Bell decide to purchase a “first class” rape. Henry, an aging actor, and his sidekick Mortimer -- dressed as a Native American -- appear and are contracted by El Gallo to assist with the “rape.” El Gallo sends them off to prepare, and busies himself with the hanging of a paper moon to set the scene.

Matt and Luisa walk together in the moonlight. They confess that they are nervous about their fathers’ judgment, and tremble at the thunder and impending rain. Matt assures Luisa that they all will end happily, and that the strength of their love will protect them from any threat. The Mute appears behind them, playing a tree, and sprinkling “rain” on the lovers (“Soon It’s Gonna Rain”). Just then, El Gallo and the actors burst in and enact Luisa’s abduction. It is a big production with drums, costumes, and music. The Mute provides Matt with wooden sticks, which he uses to knock Henry and Mortimer to the ground, and wooden sword, which he uses to fight El Gallo. Matt and El Gallo engage in an operatic, over-the-top wooden sword battle in which El Gallo is “killed” and suffers a well-rehearsed death (“Rape Ballet”). When all is over, the actors (including the “dead” El Gallo) pick themselves back up, dust themselves off, and move on. Henry recites a final Shakespearean-style speech before he and Mortimer head off for greener pastures. El Gallo “conducts” a final, joyful number between Matt, Luisa, and their fathers, in which Matt rejoices his triumph, Luisa celebrates her safety and her love of the man who kept her safe, and the proud parents share their delight that their plan worked (“Happy Ending”). They remain in a lovely tableau.

Act Two

El Gallo enters, and -- once again -- sets up the stage. He reveals the actors, still frozen in their Act One Finale tableau, though it’s become a bit awkward -- they’ve been there quite a while and are growing increasingly uncomfortable. El Gallo declares that, despite this tableau seeming to signify a happy ending, his story is not finished, yet. “The play is never done until we’ve all been burned a bit,” he explains, “burnished by the sun.” He hangs up a bright, red sun, which begins to sting the eyes of Matt, Luisa, and their fathers. In the uncomfortable brightness, our protagonists suddenly grow irritable and uncertain. Luisa and Matt feel stuck with each other, and long to experience more before settling down, while their parents can’t find common ground in their newly-merged gardens (“This Plum is Too Ripe”). Finally -- in their frustration -- Huck and Bell confess to their children that the abduction and the feud were staged. Matt and Luisa are horrified, and quickly, the false feud becomes a real one. Huck and Bell march off of their respective houses in bitterness and anger. Desperate to prove himself, Matt challenges El Gallo to a duel, but El Gallo easily disarms and defeats him. Luisa is unimpressed by her lover, and informs Matt that he’s “a poseur.” Offended, Matt retorts that she is “childish.” They fight bitterly, finally rushing away from each other. El Gallo goes to Matt, and together they concoct a vision for an adventure, far away from his hometown (“I Can See It”). Henry and Mortimer appear, and accompany Matt as he embarks on this journey.

Meanwhile, Huck and Bell are still feuding, and have rebuilt the wall they only recently tore down. They contemplate how difficult parenting can be, confessing their longing for the predictability of vegetable growth and marveling at the comparative difficulty of child rearing (“Plant a Radish”). Luisa, who has been moping sadly around the house, spots El Gallo -- a handsome, worldly gentleman-- and impulsively begs him to take her around the world. The two launch into a fantasy in which Luisa and El Gallo travel together through a magical, romantic, and unrealistic world, while -- in the background -- we see Matt being abused by Henry and Mortimer, who are playing various cruel employers who exploit him. Soon, Luisa’s fantasy also turns to a nightmare. She becomes exhausted and terrified as she discovers that much of what appears beautiful in the world is actually horrific close up (“Round and Round”). El Gallo demands that Luisa give him her necklace, a keepsake she inherited from her dead mother, as insurance that she’ll return to him, after packing her bags. Luisa complies. Matt returns home, weary and broken (“I Can See It” Reprise). He sees El Gallo, and attempts to fight him in order to protect Luisa from harm. El Gallo easily overpowers him, and leaves with Luisa’s necklace. Luisa rushes out of the house with her bags, but finds El Gallo gone. She weeps in despair.

El Gallo, separately, confesses to the audience that he had to hurt Matt and Luisa so that they could truly appreciate their love for one another. He also reveals to the audience that he hurt himself in the process of hurting them. Matt sees Luisa crying, and goes to comfort her. Wounded and vulnerable, the pair of young people realize that despite what they thought they wanted out in the world, all Matt and Luisa really want is each other (“They Were You”). Their experiences of sadness and pain have opened them up to the ability to connect much more deeply and they discover that their love is all the stronger. The fathers appear, and are happy to see their children reunited. The parents rush to tear down the wall again, but El Gallo stops them. It is important, he tells them, to “leave the wall. You must always leave the wall (“Try to Remember” Reprise).”

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