A VILLAGE OF IDIOTS

Neil Simon comedy ‘Fools’ coming to SCHS stage
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Count Gregor, played by Drew Kane, begs Sophia to marry him in a scene from “Fools.” The count has proposed marriage twice a day for years, but Sophia has denied him every time.

Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Some of the townspeople, including, from left, Yenchna, played by Emma Etten, Snetsky, played by Alana Krolow, Mishkin, played by Megan Herrmann, and Slovitch, played by Erica Krueger, talk about the new teacher in the village in a scene from “Fools.” The Neil Simon comedy will debut Thursday at Shawano Community High School’s auditorium.

People who believe they live or work with fools will think differently after they see Shawano Community High School’s latest theater production.

SCHS will present the Neil Simon comedy “Fools” starting Thursday. Director Alex Konen said he first read the script two years ago when he ultimately decided on “Harvey” for the show, but “Fools” remained in his mind as a good show for the high school students to perform.

“I just had no idea how to stage it at the time,” Konen said. “I re-read it this summer to see if it was something I could viably produce as a comedy.”

A drive to Pennsylvania gave Konen the chance to think about the set and how to create one that didn’t require major scene changes. He came up with a design that allowed for scene changes to take part on one area of the stage in darkness while characters are on another in the spotlight, continuing the show.

“Fools” follows Leon Steponovich, a teacher who has been asked to travel to the Ukrainian village of Kulyenchikov to teach a young girl named Sophia Zubritsky. When he arrives in the village, he soon realizes that the girl is not the only one who could benefit from a proper education, as he discovers all the townspeople are idiots.

It’s not their fault, they proclaim, as the village has been cursed for more than two centuries. Vladimir Yousekevitch cast the curse after his son killed himself because a girl — also named Sophia Zubritsky — was forbidden to see Vladimir’s son by her father, who found out the boy was illiterate, and made to marry another man.

One way to break the curse is for Leon, played by Hunter Krolow, to educate Sophia — the current one, that is. However, when Leon meets the fair Sophia, played by Alma Oviedo, his heart overrides his head, and he is uncertain whether he’ll be able to give the girl a proper education.

Unfortunately for Leon, the other way to break the curse is for Sophia to marry a descendant of the Yousekevitch family, Count Gregor, played by Drew Kane. Even worse, if Leon is unable to educate Sophia within 24 hours, he will also fall victim to the curse and be as idiotic as everyone else in Kulyenchikov.

“It’s not your traditional Neil Simon,” Konen said. “It’s not the ‘Odd Couple.’”

Rounding out the cast are Alana Krolow, Lily Herrmann, Megan Herrmann, Erica Krueger, Emma Etten, Matthew Schwitzer and Sahara Homan.

Konen is pleased with the way rehearsals are going into the final week, noting that the line recall is much improved over the first day students were off-script.

The play moves very quickly from one scene to another, similar to “Frankenstein” performed last year, Konen said. He expects the show to be around two hours, with an intermission.

“I’m trying to keep that idea alive that we don’t have to stop every time there’s a scene change,” Konen said. “It tends to take the audience out of what they’re absorbed in, so I want to keep the audience involved.”

Konen described “Fools” as “a fairy tale gone awry.”

“It’s got that fairy tale curse in there, but the curse is so unusual, it’s not like a kiss is going to be the only thing that breaks it,” Konen said.

He hopes audiences will take away the message that, when it comes to your own potential, sometimes you can be your own worst enemy. It’s a scenario the teacher sees regularly in his own classroom.

“The only thing that’s been holding them back their whole lives is that they’ve been told they were stupid,” Konen said. “If they could just break out of that mold, then they could be successful.”

AT A GLANCE:

WHAT: “Fools”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 26-27, 2 p.m. Oct. 28

WHERE: Auditorium, Shawano Community High School, 220 County Road B, Shawano

ADMISSION: $5 adults, $3 children