|The Ensemble in NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS|
All photos by Darrett Sanders
Based on one of Neil Simon's least popular plays, FOOLS tells the tale of the village of Kulyenchikov which has labored under an ancient curse that dooms all inhabitants to be seriously stupid. Now while they are deliberately dense, they are not without wiles, guiles and street smarts and they use all of those sharp tools to stumble through their lives.
|The Ensemble of NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS|
Imagine Fiddler on the Roof with a cast of idiots and you'll get a feeling for the tone of FOOLS. A large and talented ensemble bring the residents of Kulyenchikov to life, often with hilarious results. The Doctor (played opening night by Bruce Green) and his daffy wife Lenya (slyly played by Robyn Roth); the village merchant Yenchna (a scene-stealing Cat Davis) and her erstwhile suitor Mailman Mishkin (a hapless Hank Jacobs); silly shepherd Snetsky (a droll Parvesh Cheena), butcher Slovitch (Brendan Mulally), town crier and magistrate (Beth Robbins) and various villagers including Nina Genatossio, Juliane Hagn, Bolor Saruul, Diane Renee and Jack Sharp, who mine the humor for all its worth.
|Jason Paige as Count Gregor in|
NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS
Overall, the talented cast do their best to make the buffoons of Kulyenchikov real and sympathetic characters. However the book, while clever, is very pat in its observations about love, life and wisdom; the music and lyrics were composed by Phil Swann and Ron West (who also directs the production) and sad to say there is not a memorable, hummable tune in the score. That's a shame because there are some wonderful voices on that stage, particularly sparkling lyric soprano Snodgrass. The music director Jan Roper, oversees the arrangements by Luke Harrington and leads the onstage band consisting of Adan Snow, Ross Wright and Matt Germaine.
Kudos must go to the scenic designer Jan Munroe who creates a charming pastel-themed set consisting of painted blocks that were inspired by the visual tradition of Ukrainian pysanky eggs; the program notes that at the end of the run, the pieces will be available for purchase with the proceeds going to benefit the Open Fist Theatre Company.
There is probably a reason that the original FOOLS was not a huge hit for Simon despite having a stellar cast; popular mythology says that he intended this play to fail as the profits earned would be part of his nasty divorce settlement with actress-wife Marsha Mason. But whether true or not, the show now has a another chance to entice audiences to visit Kulyenchikov for the evening. Perhaps reworking some of the musical numbers would be a not-so-crazy idea to send theatergoers home humming a tune or two.
NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS is playing through November 17 at the Atwater Village Theatre, located at 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles 90039. On-site parking is free (although on weekend nights, street parking is available but tough to find in this small theater-heavy neighborhood) and tickets range from $15 for students up to $35 on Saturday and Sunday nights at 8pm. For reservations and more information, call 323-882-6912 or visit www.openfist.org.
-- Lisa Lyons