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Henrico Theatre Company Fools

By • Jul 17th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Fools
Henrico Theatre Company: (Info) (Web)
The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, Glen Allen, VA
Through July 28th
1:45, with intermission
$8-$10
Reviewed July 13th, 2013

Sometimes you just need good dumb fun, and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of Fools is indeed good, fun, and all about dumb.

The Neil Simon comedy takes place in 1890 in the remote Ukrainian village of Kulyenchikov, which has been cursed with ignorance for the past 200 years. The villagers are incapable of learning, and they can barely even remember common words.

Young schoolmaster Leon Tolchinsky (played by Matt Hackman) arrives and attempts to educate the populace, especially fair Sophia (Leah Hicks), with whom he’s instantly smitten, despite the fact that this 19-year-old has only recently learned how to sit down. Leon has a rival for Sophia’s affections, the villainous Gregor Yousekevitch (Charles Wax, who — full disclosure — was one of my high school theatre directors). Can Leon break the village’s curse and win the love of Sophia?

This isn’t Simon’s strongest script. It can get a bit cheesy, especially in how Leon instantly falls in love with Sophia. However, the whole thing is just so good-natured and unpretentious, it exudes plenty of charm. The villagers may be fools, but they’re nice, well-meaning people. Their ignorance provides plenty of opportunities for humorous misunderstandings.

Hackman makes a likeable lead. He brings great energy to the role, and he manages to be irritated without ever becoming irritating. Hicks also does a fine job as Sophia, and the two work great together. The script doesn’t do much to develop their chemistry and leaves them with all the heavy lifting. They prove more than up to the task. Dan Gerstenlauer and Laurie Follmer make a wonderful comedic duo as the bumbling Dr. and Mrs. Zubritsky.

The entire cast is clearly having fun, so the audience does as well. Saturday’s performance generated consistent laughter at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.

A star in and of itself was the combination of Amy Berlin’s direction (Editor’s note: Ms. Berlin is a reviewer for ShowBizRadio) and Lin Heath’s set design. Berlin has choreographed plenty of movement to keep the physical comedy flowing, and Heath’s set provides multiple levels to diversify the visual appeal. A particular highlight was watching Leon struggling to climb a balcony to see Sophia, right as she rushes out her front door to see him down there.

A nice thing about this show is how clean it is. There’s nothing crude, disgusting, or inappropriate. It’s all about having fun. It won’t challenge you, but it will amuse you. Fools is great for families who want to introduce their older children to live theatre.

Photo Gallery

Photo 1 Photo 2

Photos provided by Henrico County Recreation and Parks

Cast

  • Leon Tolchinsky: Matt Hackman
  • Snetsky: Tyler Simpson
  • Magistrate: Jim Scott
  • Slovitch: Barbi Partlow
  • Mishkin: Don Polaski
  • Yenchna: Sandra Clayton
  • Dr. Zubritsky: Dan Gerstenlauer
  • Lenya Zubritsky: Laurie Follmer
  • Sophia Zubritsky: Leah Hicks
  • Gregor Yousekevitch: Charles A. Wax

Production Staff:
  • Director: Amy Berlin
  • Stage Manager: Tiffany Shifflett
  • Set Design: Lin Heath
  • Light Design: Matthew Landwehr
  • Costumes: Charlotte Scharff and Betty Williams
  • Sound Design: Richard Koch
  • Properties Coordinator: Richard Koch

Disclaimer: Henrico Theatre Company provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a writer based in central Virginia. His original plays have been performed in multiple venues. He won the 2006 Chameleon Theatre Circle's New Play Contest (theatre for youth category), as well as several Virginia Press Association awards for his community newspaper work. He was a semifinalist in the 2011 PAGE International Screenwriting Competition and a finalist in both the 2006 and 2010 TVWriter.com People's Pilot competitions. He graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2005, and this year he earned his black belt in Thai kickboxing. He once jumped out of an airplane, which was memorable. Learn about his fiction writing at Sherrierbooks.com.

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