Circle Theatre Players’ “Fools” Provides Light-Hearted Fun

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AVERILL PARK – Presented at Sand Lake Center for the Arts, Circle Theatre Players’ production of Fools opened on a rainy Friday. While perhaps not Neil Simon at his best, it may well be Simon at his zaniest. In the times we’re in, and in contrast to some of the more serious plays out there, it provides the light-hearted fun that may be just what you need right now.

(l-r) Brian Avery, Bill Douglas, Robin Shrager Suitor

Leon Tolchinsky arrives at an isolated Russian village in response to a newspaper advertisement for a teacher for the local doctor’s daughter. After several unusual encounters with local residents, he’s informed by the doctor and his wife that everyone in town has been cursed with stupidity for the last 200 years. Upon meeting Sophia, the doctor’s daughter, he instantly becomes infatuated with her and makes it his mission to reverse the curse by educating her. Standing in his way is Count Gregor, whose ancestor initiated the curse, and who wants to marry Sophia himself to break it.

The setting was established and enhanced by superb technical elements. Costumes by Barbara Neu-Berti, Hair/Make-up by Abbi Roy and set design by Michael McDermott were appropriate to time and place, with excellent attention to detail (e.g. bandages on most of the butcher’s fingers). That same attention to detail, which allows the audience to be fully absorbed by the world of the play, was also found in the set decoration and Beth Swallow’s Props. Where the lighting was efficient and aided some comic moments, every instance of Barry Streifert’s sound effects created or enhanced comedic moments in the play. Finally, director Adam M. Coons helms an ensemble cast, with many in their first CTP show, that absolutely relishes in their characters’ absurdity.

Allison McArdle

Competing with each other to earn the biggest laughs by going further over-the-top (in a good way), the ensemble, including Jackie DeGiorgis, Henry DiMaria, George Filieau, Michael McDermott, Michael C. Mensching and Sage Payeur, gave entertaining segues and intros to each act. It’s unfortunate that, at least on opening night, Leon (Brian Avery) could not match their level of energy and enthusiasm. Hopefully the rest of the cast’s energy will be infectious and he will pick up as the run continues. As for the rest of the cast, Sofia (Allison McArdle) was excellent, portraying the pervasive stupidity of the town but with glimmers of intelligence in behind. Her parents, the doctor and his wife, portrayed by Bill Douglas and Robin Shrager Suitor were absolutely sublime in their ignorance. They commanded the stage in their scenes and Douglas in particular was hysterical. The funniest individual moments of the night may have been provided by Peter Quinones’ Count Gregor, addressing the audience directly. Among his outstanding bits, when the audience wouldn’t help him, he spat out “I hope it rains again when you leave” and stormed off.

While the play had some emotional investments, such as in Act II when we are wondering whether Leon will break the curse in time, overall Fools was outright a delightful comedy. Adam M. Coons has created a perfect diversion from the weather, election season, or any other anxiety plaguing you. Exactly the sort of diversion that theater can supply when we need it most.

Through Nov. 20 at Sand Lake Center for the Arts. Tickets are $20. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit slca-ctp.org.

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