Eugene O'Neill Theatre, (4/06/1981 - 5/09/1981)

First Preview: Mar 25, 1981
Opening Date: Apr 06, 1981
Closing Date: May 09, 1981
Total Previews: 14
Total Performances: 40

Category: Play, Comedy, Original, Broadway
Setting: The Village of Kulyenshikov. Long Ago.

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Nancy Enterprises, Inc.

Produced by Emanuel Azenberg

Written by Neil Simon; Incidental music by John Rubinstein

Directed by Mike Nichols

Scenic Design by John Lee Beatty; Costume Design by Patricia Zipprodt; Lighting Design by Tharon Musser; Sound Consultant: Thomas Morse; Hair Design by John D. Quaglia

General Manager: Jose Véga; Associate Gen. Mgr: Bruce Birkenhead

Production Stage Manager: Martin Herzer; Stage Manager: Cathy B. Blaser; Assistant Stage Mgr: Jeff Abbott; Technical Supervisor: Arthur Siccardi

General Press Representative: Bill Evans & Associates; Casting: T.N.I. Casting; Advertising: Serino, Coyne & Nappi; Photographer: Martha Swope; Full length mink cape by Flemington Fur Company

Opening Night Cast

John RubinsteinLeon Tolchinsky
Harold GouldDoctor Zubritsky
Gerald HikenSnetsky
Joseph LeonMishkin
David LipmanSlovitch
Pamela ReedSophia Zubritsky
Richard B. ShullGregor Yousekevitch
Florence StanleyYenchna
Fred StuthmanMagistrate
Mary Louise WilsonLenya Zubritsky

Standby: Jeff Abbott (Leon Tolchinsky, Snetsky), Diaan Ainslee (Lenya Zubritsky, Yenchna) and Deborah Allison (Sophia Zubritsky)

Awards and Nominations

Drama Desk Award

 1981 Outstanding Costume Design [nominee] 

Patricia Zipprodt


New York Daily News: "'Fools' from Simon: the younger, the better"

The last time Neil Simon fooled around with Russia, in "The Good Doctor," he engaged himself in an uneasy partnership with Chekhov. Now, in "Fools," which opened last night at the O'Neill, he has contented himself with a comic fairy-tale romance that should prove mildly diverting to adults and even more so to schoolchildren.

Once upon a time, according to Simon's fable, a new schoolmaster arrived at a Ukrainian village whose inhabitants had been struck dumb - or rather, stupid - 200 years before by a curse which has afflicted all their descendants. Following in the footsteps of countless other schoolteachers, all of whom evidently had the good sense to back off before it was too late, Leon Tolchinsky must deliver the people from the curse within 24 hours or, if he fails and does not leave before the time is up, turn stupid himself.

The situation would appear at first glance to be a promising one for a writer of Simon's comic talents, but on closer inspection it becomes obvious that only so many changes can be rung on it. In a shifting interior-exterior storybook setting by John Lee Beatty, it takes the author less than an hour-and-a-half, not counting an intermission, to work things out. The solution, after a few close calls, is a bit sloppy, as if Simon had exhausted his invention, but all ends happily.

The odd and rather disarming thing about "Fools" is the gentleness of most of Simon's humor. Not that there isn't a plenitude of typical Simon gags. One of them (Doctor: "You'll live to be 80." Patient: "I'm 79 now." Doctor: "You have a wonderful year ahead.") might even have been left over from "The Sunshine Boys." But true love, of all things, is uppermost in our playwright's mind. And Tolchinksy's adored little fool of a Sophia, whose loveliness keeps him there in the village of Kolyenchikov till the clock strikes the fateful hour, has a wisdom surpassing his textbook knowledge.

John Rubinstein, who is surely one of the stage's most winning young leading men, plays the schoolteacher delightfully and with considerable athletic prowess, whether climbing and reclimbing Sophia's balcony (she keeps coming down to meet him as he goes up) or making high, spread-legged leaps in a closing hopak. Addressing us directly in narrative sequences or dealing determinedly but exasperatedly with the nutty populace, he gives a vibrant performance.

The supporting cast is also first-rate. Pamela Reed doesn't get much opportunity to demonstrate her own substantial skills as an actress, but her Sophia is winsomely amusing. Harold Gould and Mary Louise Wilson are entertaining as Sophia's parents, the dotty town doctor and his wife who squats each time he tells her to lower her voice. And Richard B. Shull is a suave clown as the nasty count on the hill who, seemingly showing a kind side (as it happens, only a Yousekevitch, of which he is the last, can lift the curse by marriage to Sophia), basks in the audience's smiles and encourages its applause much as such figures egg on youngsters in more conventional kiddie shows.

Gerald Hiken brings a great deal of style to the relatively small role of a shepherd who keeps misplacing his flock. Other enjoyable turns (you can't honestly call these cardboard figures characters) are contributed by Fred Stuthman as the town magistrate, Florence Stanley as a screwy vendor, David Lipman as a butcher who sweeps his porch dust indoors and unhappily is no wiser once the curse is gone, and Joseph Leon as the remaining villager.

Mike Nichols has staged this little fancy of Simon's with flair and many sound comic touches. The old-world costumes are the handiwork of Patricia Zipprodt, and the romantic lighting scheme is Tharon Musser's. By the way, Rubinstein has also composed the attractive incidental music, by turns lively and romantic.

"Fools" is low-keyed and even slight Simon, but it is also surprisingly warmhearted Simon, and it passes the time amiably enough.

New York Daily News

View full site