"Nothing is like the logic of an illogical mind" is a point well proven by Hayfield Secondary School's recent production of Neil Simon's 1981 play "Fools," an energetic show with a boundless supply of slapstick comedy and witty wordplay.
When schoolteacher Leon Tolchinsky (played by Austin Johnson) arrives at what he thinks is the "peaceful and simple" village of Kulyenshikov to meet a new pupil, he is stunned to learn that the town has been placed under a curse causing all of its residents to be stupid. The biggest blow comes when he discovers that in 24 hours, he, too, will be afflicted with the terrible curse. He must find a way to break the curse to save the town, especially his lovely pupil Sophia Zubritsky (Sara Aultman).
Hayfield's cast worked with zeal as a tight unit. The comedic timing was great, as were the relationships among the characters. Each performer delivered his or her lines with volume and clarity, never confusing the audience.
As the teacher, Johnson made an excellent transition from clean-cut and uptight schoolmaster to frazzled young man in love. His ability to play the straight man in a town full of wacky characters was commendable.
Playing the dimwitted Sophia, Aultman gave a pleasant performance with her deadpan delivery of ridiculous statements.
Sophia's parents, played by Nathan Smith and Kelsey Mahoney, were a perfectly matched comedic duo. Their quirky relationship was hilarious and energetic. Mahoney showed adept timing, and her expressive eyebrows appeared to take on a life of their own. The villagers were a tight ensemble, always coming onstage with boundless energy.
The set, designed by the team of Alex Bergersen, Greg Channon, Austin Johnson and Nathan Smith, perfectly complemented the chaotic script.
A cockeyed clock tower and the house's crooked picture frames suggest that the town itself is influenced by the curse.
Occasionally, some of the dialogue was lost when actors did not wait for laughter to subside. The walls of the buildings also tended to shake whenever a door shut, but the action onstage almost always drew attention away from that.
Hayfield's cast and crew did a good job of making an off-the-wall show believable and enjoyable. There was nothing at all foolish about this production.
Chantilly High School
Hayfield's production of "Fools" opened with the sound of chirping birds and the sight of a seemingly average village. However, a closer look at the signs hanging over the "poast offise" and "boocher shop" revealed that this particular village may be, well, a little special.
The Russian town of Kulyenshikov has been cursed to suffer from stupidity for 200 years. In an act of desperation, schoolteacher Leon Tolchinsky is hired to break the curse. What the villagers fail to mention is that Leon has 24 hours to cure the villagers before he, too, becomes a victim.
Austin Johnson consistently played the straight-man schoolteacher, even when the characters around him were up to their usual hilarious antics. Sara Aultman as Sophia easily handled the difficult task of playing a character who is, as they say, dumber than dirt. Nathan Smith and Kelsey Mahoney gave strong and believable performances as Sophia's parents, with persuasive stage chemistry between them. Wesley Powell gave a convincing portrayal of a villain who was a little soft around the edges, despite what others thought about him.
The villagers' crazy personalities were a delight to watch onstage, and their interpretive performances received many laughs from the audience.
Designing and constructing an entire town that must look as though a less-than-intelligent villager built it is not an easy feat, but Hayfield's student designers did so nicely.
Laura Berberich created costumes suitable for wacky characters with wild personalities, and Dale Placek effectively used many different lighting techniques, including countless spotlights.
By the end of the show, the characters experienced a great deal of personal growth. They learned the valuable lesson that you must first believe in your own intelligence before you can truly be smart. The talented thespians at Hayfield conveyed this message with clear conviction, managing to drive home a timeless lesson while still giving an entertaining performance.
Edison High School