Neil Simon’s play takes its inspiration from the stories of Sholem Aleichem (also the source of “Fiddler on the Roof”), though Simon’s village of Kulyenshikov is as much sound stage as shtetl. Its inhabitants, eternally cursed to slow-wittedness, measure out their days with a succession of vaudeville acts: “I thought you dusted this book.” “I put fresh dust on it this afternoon!” In the right hands, “Fools” would be a kind of theatrical “Airplane!”, leavening its flurries of groan-worthy jokes with the sweet love story of the idealistic schoolmaster Leon (Dustin Ayers) and his desperately dumb student Sophia (Joan McClive). Alas, TinFish’s production of “Fools” is not in the right hands. Ayers brings a sprightly, Matthew Broderick-like energy to his role, and Lucas Schuneman’s Count Gregor enlivens the production with gleeful villainy. But most of Simon’s laugh lines fall stillborn from the cast’s lips, as though the production itself were under a curse that kept them innocent of (timing) the secret of comedy. The problem is compounded by an awkward stage design that keeps much of the action at a distance, separated from the audience by a great swath of bare stage. The result is not altogether “Fools.” (John Beer)
This production is now closed.