Pushed to the limit, even ‘fools’ can fall in love!


Pictured left to right: Aaron Brackett, Claire Malkie, Heather Hartzell, and Lizzie Beane. Photo by Marty LaVor.
November 9, 2011

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Julian Sanchez, a student at Westfield High School , reviews “Fools” performed by St. Stephens and St. Agnes School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .

With his suitcase in hand, and his head held high, Leon Tolchinsky has just arrived in a mysterious town that’s filled with the wackiest of people. There’s a vendor who is convinced that milking cows sideways is a great alternative, a doctor whose medical background is highly questionable, and a beautiful, young woman who is, well—a complete fool. This bewildering village is the subject of St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School’s uproarious production of Fools.

This lighthearted Neil Simon comedy, which premiered on Broadway in 1981, tells the story of Leon Tolchinsky, a bright, young teacher who has been assigned to instruct an enchanting woman named Sophia Zubritsky. What makes this assignment strangely unique is that Sophia, as well as everyone else in the town of Kulyenchikov, has been cursed with a cruel hex that has made her utterly incompetent--all at the hands of the evil Count Gregor Yousekevitch. Tolchinsky takes a deep interest in his charismatic pupil, but is soon warned that if he doesn’t teach her to use her intellect in the subsequent 24 hours, then the town's curse will never be lifted. Rushed and in love, Tolchinsky seizes the opportunity to help out in the peculiar situation.

A majority of the actors in this production gave stellar portrayals of their madcap characters and kept their high energy level throughout the entire performance. Although some of the members of the ten person cast had trouble with speed and clarity, all the actors brought an engaging presence to the show that helped with the overall fluidity.

Matthew Mirliani gave a stirring performance as the dedicated and affectionate Leon Tolchinsky. His steadfast expressiveness added to his warm persona, and he had specific mannerisms that made his depiction of the bright young schoolteacher all the more believable. Mirliani had great projection, and because of his touching delivery, he was easily able to keep the audience’s attention. Sibet Partee played Sophia Zubritsky, Leon’s alluring love interest. Partee was fully able to show the ditzy, thoughtless side of her character, but also had the talent of showing her character’s true, inner melancholy.

Virginia Coffield wowed the audience by using her rich comedic chops while portraying Sophia’s mother Lenya. Coffield has the natural confidence and flawless comedic timing of an experienced professional well beyond her age. With her charm and exuberance, no pun or punch line was left without a laugh. She added vigor and jests to some otherwise dull scenes, and quickly became a standout amongst the cast.

The set designers, Marena Anderson, Katy Jones-Powe, and Grace Montgomery, cognizant of their small stage, designed a house using panels that could be reversed and transformed into a market place. The bright colors and large, wonderfully painted set pieces emphasized the beauty of Kulyenchikov. The cherry on top of a pleasing presentation was the pianist Heather McPherson, who played her original music during the show, adding additional jollity in the background of scenes.

There were funny characters, hilarious situations, and a lesson to be learned in St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes’s production of “Fools”: stop at nothing in your pursuit of love. Who knew such a comical play could have such meaning?  

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