Welcome to the village of Kulyenchikov in Russia. It is 1891 and Leon Tolchinsky is ecstatic to have landed a terrific teaching job there. The only problem is the people have been under a curse for 200 years and every person he meets is dumber than the last one. This is the plotline of Newport Playhouse's latest show "Fools", a farce written by Neil Simon. Under the direction of Rob Reimer, this talented cast pulls off this show with ease and has an excellent two story set built by Gene Dufault and hilarious but beautiful costumes by Lisa Reimer. The end result is a multitude of laughter during these proceedings. Combine this with an excellent buffet dinner before the show prepared by head chef, Sue Raposa ( My favorite is the scrumptious pot roast) and a fun filled song fest at the cabaret after the show and you have a delightful evening of entertainment for this holiday season.
Nishan Lawton is fantastic as Leon.(Lisa has him dressed as a Charlie Chaplin type, complete with bowler hat.) He delivers his enormous amount of dialogue with the warmth that this role requires and his facial reactions and interactions with other cast members are excellent, too. Nishan has many monologues and asides to the audience and he delivers them perfectly, using different levels to the character to keep them interested in what he's saying. Only 26 years old, this kid performs this role like a well seasoned veteran. Bravo on a job well done.
The rest of this 10 person cast lives up to the high standards set by its leading man. Jamie Souza plays Leon's love interest, Sophia in this show. She is a gorgeous brunette who makes this very stupid girl, an appealing one. You root for her to learn more than just how to sit down in a chair and when she realizes what true love is, she is hopefully on the way. Her parents are played by veteran performers, Rob Reimer and Sandy Cerel who as the doctor and his wife show how they are almost as dumb as their daughter. (Rob who also directed the show, utilizes every part of the village set complete with a balcony, stairs, a slide and has the actors enter from all over the theater.) He and Sandy play off one another very well and when he tells her to lower her voice and she stoops down to speak to him, you won't be able to stop laughing.
There are many loony characters in this show but the first person, Leon meets in this crazy village is Snetsky played by Sandi Nicastro who is dressed up like Little Bo Peep. She isn't a sheepherder, she is a sheep loser and her name is Something Something Snetsky. Sandi is a wonderful comedienne and she makes the most of this role especially when she tries to climb onto the stage and has to be yanked up by her staff. Bing McGrath is very funny as Slovitch, the butcher who sweeps dirt into his hat and is always cutting himself in his shop. The last scene is hilarious when he enters after another accident in his shops but I don't want to spoil it just get ready to burst into laughter. The Elmer Fudd speaking magistrate is played by John Moreau who makes his debut in this show. His funniest scene is in the wedding when he is perfoming the ceremony using the Fudd like voice. The three biggest scene stealers in this show are Jason Heywood as Miskin, the postman, Daisy Gilmore as Yechna, the vendor and Michael Johnson as Count Yousekevitch. Jason not only delivers the mail, he reads out loud to the audience and other cast members. His interactions with Daisy in the fish scene and the macaroon scene are hysterical. (He sticks his head in her boobs when she says they are twin lobsters and he searchs her legs and body for the macaroons.) Daisy's line delivery as the sexy slut in this village is a hoot. She sells flowers as fish in the first act and in the second she drags an upside down wooden cow on the stage and tries to sell her milk to the audience. Last but not least is Mike who is dressed like Rudolph Valentino with a bright red sheik like outfit with his line delivery at times sounding like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard". His first entrance is through the crowd and he forces the person in the front row to boost him up on the stage. Mike tries to woo the young lass and steal her away from Leon. His lines to the audience are comical and he earns applause after he leaves the stage. So for an entertaining farcical evening of merriment be sure to catch, "Fools" at the Newport Playhouse. You definitely won't be disappointed. (The Playhouse celebrates its 20 anniversary this month. Congratulations to Matt and Jonathan on their 20th.) Also a word of praise goes to 1st time stage manager, Laurie Shippee who runs the numerous sound and lighting cues without a hitch.