By Louis Arias
In Motion Staff Writer
The Gillespy Theatre at the News-Journal Center has a comedic treat in store this fall for theater lovers at Daytona State, as well as Volusia and Flagler counties as a ahole. It’s a fresh rendition of a Neil Simon classic presented quite differently from the way it was originally envisioned.
“Fools” is a play about a legend that has a legend of its own. Over the years, it’s been reported that Simon, who has been married five times to four different women, pledged the royalties from this Broadway play as part of an embittered settlement. It’s also been suggested that as a result of that judgment, he intended to write something that wouldn’t make it on Broadway.
As New York Times critic Frank Rich saw it, “How can one account for ‘Fools,’ the almost total misfire that Neil Simone brought to the Eugene O’Neill last night? This peculiar endeavor was destined to be fruitless from the moment the playwright dreamed it up. Why the shrewd Mr. Simon plunged ahead anyway is one of the minor mysteries of the Broadway season.”
Sure enough, the show folded after only 40 performances. But, funny as it may seem, over time the comedy became a staple of academic and community theaters. In retrospect, his ex may have gotten the last laugh.
Professor Samantha Stern, Director of Theater at DSC, says she chose the play because “As an educator, I like ‘Fools’ because it offers a number of magnificent characters that allow students to tap into their creativity and highlight their personal strengths.”
Professor Stern believes that the play’s original short run was not a reflection of its comedic quality, rather a result of New York’s theater-going public in 1981, which expected something different from the acclaimed playwright. She says that is why it was not received kindly.
Although “Fools” has become a cult classic, it certainly is not a typical Simon play. It is reminiscent of a Mel Brooks’ comedy with constant one-liners and gags that the author’s less complimentary critics have faulted him for. Still, its appeal lies in the fact that it allows for a wide variety of interpretations, both on and off stage.
The plot is simple.
A young schoolmaster is hired to teach the beautiful young daughter of a cursed Ukrainian village’s doctor in the late 19th Century. The inhabitants are dumber than dirt and he only has 24 hours to figure out how to end the curse or he will become as stupid as everyone else. Instead of getting out while he can, he does a dumb thing: He falls in love.
Is there hope for these hopeless fools? It might be foolish not to find out. After all, DSC and Volusia and Flagler County students get in free with a valid student ID.
Nathan Pessah will play Leon. His take on the difference between watching the play in person instead of on video is: “There is nothing like the feel of live theater. We interact with the audience and I even pose questions to it; you can look every one of us in the eye and make a personal connection that cannot happen otherwise. There is always some disconnect with a video.”
Kaitlyn Caplette takes on the role of Sophia. Regarding the comedy’s appeal the actor observed, “There’s just something for everyone. No matter what your education or interests are, there just will be some level of a character’s stupidity that will make you laugh. Even with Leon’s final monologue, everyone can relate.”
Daytona State College’s mainstay productions aren’t always comedies. They are selected to allow students to develop their multidisciplinary performance skills. Some of the plays being considered next are Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive,” which deals with sexual abuse, and Steven Sondheim’s murderous carnival, “Assassins.”
Despite damage caused by Hurricane Irma’s onslaught, “Fools” is still set to open on Oct. 26.