Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Imagine you are an eager, young Ukrainian schoolteacher. It is 1890 and your next post is located in a small village. Upon your arrival, to your utmost dismay, you find the villagers “incurably stupid.” The source of their stupidity? A 200 year old curse. Your task? Break the curse.
Currently in rehearsal, Dramaboard and director Matt Dering, class of ’07, are preparing to bring the farcical and fabled world of Neil Simon’s “Fools: A Comic Fable to Swarthmore.” “Fools” was reputedly written by Simon in the early 1980s in order to weasel out of a section of his divorce agreement. Knowing that his wife would be entitled to half of whatever his play earned, Simon attempted to create something that would fail on Broadway. The result of his efforts is a play packed with simple humor and hilarity.
Dering, a theater veteran who also directed Simon’s comedy The Odd Couple, stumbled across Fools while searching for a piece to direct during the fall semester. He “fell in love with the…idea of a farcical fable.” Part fairy tale and part comedy, Fools will remind its audience of stories told to children with a facetious twist. The success of Fools depends highly on comedic timing, as Dering is highly aware. Powerful lines must be executed precisely “lest they sound genuinely stupid.”
Despite the comically demanding nature of the script, Dering is ready to meet all challenges, as is the cast which includes Markus Schlotterbeck ’10, as Leon the schoolteacher, and Joella Fink of ’07, as Sophia, Leon’s love interest. Dering is most eager to explore Fools’ staging location in Upper Tarble which is particularly suited to some of Fools’ staging needs. Taking advantage of the built in balcony, Fools’ set will blend creativity and what is already there.
To find out if the hapless village is freed from its enforced stupidity and for good laugh, be sure to attend a performance of Fools in Upper Tarble on March 26, 27, or 28.