‘Fools’ rush in at Kent County Theatre Guild

From left, Elyse Mendez as Sophia Zubritsky, Will McVay as Leon Tolchinsky, John Muller as Dr. Zubritsky and Linda Smith as Lenya Zubritsky in “Fools”. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Kent County Theatre Guild is bringing to the stage an unconventional love story that takes place in a town of idiots.

Although writer Neil Simon is best known for Broadway hits like “The Odd Couple” and “The Sunshine Boys,” “Fools” was a Broadway failure, closing after only 40 performances — but that’s just what Mr. Simon wanted.

“Since he was such a successful playwright, during his divorce, his wife demanded all the money he made off his next play so he set out to make the worst play ever,” director Nancy Muller said.

“We don’t think it’s bad at all, though. We can’t make it through one rehearsal without breaking down into hysterics.”

The town in which the play takes place is under a curse that causes everyone to be dim-witted their entire life. But it isn’t at all sad because the characters live in blissful ignorance.

“You end up with a lot of nonsensical lines so the audience probably wouldn’t even notice if any of the actors screwed up their lines,” said Will McVay of Dover.

“In the script, there’s even a lot of confusion with basic pronouns like he and she.”

“Because of the confusing dialogue and jokes that are tied into it, it’s a lot better play to watch than read,” said Alice Santo of Dover portraying Yenchna the merchant.

“The delivery is so important. You need someone else to digest it and present it in a way that really makes the humor

From left, Alice Santo as Yenchna, Amy Bill as Snetsky, Laini as Slovitch and Bob Barto as Mishkin.

accessible. But you do need to pay attention because it’s just one joke after another.”

Mr. McVay plays Leon Tolchinsky, the lone character with any brains. He is a school teacher who comes to teach in the village and is totally unaware of the curse. The simple fact that he is capable of thought makes him an object of fascination to the townspeople, especially Ms. Santo’s Yenchna.

“My character is always on the lookout for a man but it never works out,” Ms. Santo said. “She’s always cracking one-liners about it because this time, her quest for love still doesn’t work out.”

That’s because Mr. Tolchinsky’s fascination falls upon his student, Sophia Zubritsky.

“I think it’s confusing for him at first,” said Elyse Mendez of Dover, playing the part of Sophia.

“He’s in love with her but she’s an idiot. He’s her teacher and it’s almost impossible to teach Sophia anything.”

So Leon Tolchinsky makes it his goal not only to educate Sophia but to break the curse to free Sophia and the townspeople from their stupidity.

On top of the wild story line, “Fools” is set in Ukraine so most the actors are taking their first stab at a Slavic accent, getting inspiration from shows like “Dexter’s Laboratory” and “Star Trek.”

“It’s been fun to see the actors improve their accents,” Ms. Muller said. “It’s difficult to stick with an accent for an entire performance so we’d have people starting out with the Russian accent then it would suddenly be a British accent but I think everyone has got it pretty much down pat by now.”

The humor of the play and the fun with the accents has made the play a great ice breaker for Ms. Santo, who is new to the guild.

From left, Elyse Mendez as Sophia Zubritsky, Jeff Bellon as Gregor Yousekevitch, Patrice Hartung as Magistrate, and Will McVay as Leon Tolchinsky.

“I’ve been extensively involved in theater for several years, doing four shows a year and competitions but this is my first show with the guild,” she said.

“It’s been so much fun and a story like this one makes rehearsals a great time. It doesn’t feel like work at all.”

“Fools” takes the stage Feb. 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. Sundays are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $16 for students, seniors and military.

Tickets are available online at kctg.org. The guild’s Patchwork Playhouse is at 140 Roosevelt Ave. in Dover.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

Elyse Mendez as Sophia Zubritsky, and Will McVay as Leon Tolchinsky.

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