by Summer Lange
“Fools”, the story of a bright schoolteacher determined to educate a town cursed with ignorance, as performed by Cedarville’s talented students, left the audience in uproarious laughter on opening night.
The comedy, written by the late Neil Simon, begins with an optimistic Leon Tolchinsky, played by the fantastic Jeremy Smith, explaining to the audience why he has come to the small village of Kulyenchikov, Ukraine: he has been hired by Dr. Zubritsky (Nathan Robertson) to educate his daughter, Sofia (Beth Oldham). Leon quickly learns, however, that things are not quite what they seem as the first person he meets cannot even remember his own name. The audience, alongside Leon, quickly learns that the town has been plagued by a curse for two hundred years that makes all residents of Kulyenchikov foolish and ignorant. The only way to lift the curse is for Sofia Zubritsky to either be educated or to marry the detested Count Gregor Yousekevitch (Blake Hansher), the ancestor of the man who first cursed the village. Leon finds himself falling for the beautiful Sofia and becomes determined to lift the curse.
Upon entering the theater, audiences will quickly notice the vibrant and colorful set which that captures the cartoonish character of Kulyenchikov and its inhabitants. The set itself holds a few surprises for the audience. The play begins with Leon connecting directly with the audience, captivating them with his own excitement and optimism for what the future holds. Of course, a comedy would be nothing without humor, and once the laughter starts it does not stop. Between the comical townsfolk — played by Hunter Johnson, Andrew Standley, Sara Humphrey, and Abigail Krakora — and the orderly Magistrate (Jean-Luc Schieferstein), the devious yet delightful Count Gregor and the comical duo that is Dr. Zubritsky and his wife, Lenya (Ranae Haskins), there is no dull moment nor an instant in which the physical and verbal gags do not leave the audience in stitches.
And yet, amidst all the laughter, “Fools” holds a deeper message. Leon discovers that the curse of Kulyenchikov is not supernatural, but rather a belief that has persisted because the townsfolk have always been taught to believe they are stupid. He says, “Kulyenchikov’s lack of intelligence is self-inflicted, caused by fear and guilt and the relinquishing of your own self-esteem to a tyrannical power.” In this, we are reminded that we live in our own Kulyenchikov, under our own curse: the curse of sin. We, however, have a chance for our curse to be lifted thanks to God’s good love and grace if we accept His gift of salvation.
At the conclusion of the play, Leon discovers that, despite the curse causing a lack of love in the village, his love for Sofia never dwindles and that, in the end, “It was love that destroyed the curse.” And the same rings true for our own story.
Cedarville University’s production of “Fools” by Neil Simon will run through Oct. 14 in the DeVries Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at the Information Center in the Stevens Student Center or online at Cedarville.edu/ticketinfo.
Summer Lange is a freshman mechanical engineering major and an arts and entertainment reporter for Cedars. She enjoys wearing sweaters, reading, watching Pixar movies, and is constantly becoming obsessed with new musicals.