DINING & ENTERTAINMENT
Neil Simon’s Musical; ‘Penny Dreadful’ farce on the moors Neil Simon’s Musical Fools is an adaptation of the Simon play “Fools,” with book and lyrics by Neil Simon, and music and lyrics by Phil Swann and Ron West. Yes, we’re talking about that Neil Simon. There are several apocryphal tales as to why he chose to write this play. The time is 1893, the place the Ukraine. In the opening scene, we are traveling by train to the small town of Kulyenchikov, bringing the new tutor Leon Tolchinsky (the engaging James Byous) to the town. Kudos to scenic designer Jan Munroe, whose scenic art was inspired by the visual tradition of Ukrainian pysanky eggs (wooden decorated Easter eggs). We soon learn that the village’s population is a parade of stupid — every kind possible. This allows the puns, double entendres, misdirec-
tions and funny malaprops full reign in the dialogue. It seems the town of Kulyenchikov is cursed. Two hundred years ago, all townspeople and their domestic animals (plus future ancestors of same), were cursed with stupidity — no more intelligence than a bump on a log. Dr. Nikolai Zubrinski (Derek Manson) and his wife Lenya Zubrinski (Robyn Roth) hope that the new tutor will find a way to deliver them from the curse. On a personal level, the doctor hopes that he’ll be able to open jars. Leon vows to break the curse by education. As the curse started with Sophia Zubrinski in 1696, Leon feels the Sophia of 1893 (Clare Snodgrass), a direct descendant, is key to the cure. When he meets her, he falls instantly and deeply in love. Enter Count Gregor
Theater Review by
Patricia Foster Rye Yousekevitch (Jason Paige), the villain. What ensues is not so much divine intervention, as several cases of mistaken identity, that wrap the evening perfectly. This is a whimsical two acts filled with lots of laughs, some very hummable music and the inevitable happy ending. The timely and lively choreography is by Louisa Kendrick Burton. The cast is excellent. An onstage band is led by musical director Jan Roper. Director Ron West has kept the fairy tale feeling and the comedic pace perfectly. Through Sun., Nov. 17. Open Fist Theatre Company at the Atwater Village Theatre,
3269 Casitas Ave., 323-8826912, openfist.org. 4 Stars • • • The Mystery of Irma Vep, A Penny Dreadful, by Charles Ludlam, was first performed in 1987. A word about penny dreadfuls; originally, they were cheap, sensationalist, serial books produced circa late 1800s and they included characters such as Sweeney Todd, Dick Turpin and Varney the Vampire. The various lurid subjects have always appealed to audiences, and in 1991, “The Mystery of Irma Vep, A Penny Dreadful,” was the most produced play in the United States. With deep bows to Gothic literature like “Rebecca” by Daphne DuMaurier and “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, plus the horror films of Hollywood in the 1930s, this two-actor many, many character play leaves no stone unturned in pursuing their quest. The first act takes place at
Mandacrest on the moors, complete with fog, howling wolves, dead wolves, creepy portraits and more. Jane, the prickly servant (my favorite character played by John Allee) and a groundskeeper Nicodemus (Isaac Wade) are stressing over Lord Edgar’s (Allee) new wife Lady Enid (Wade). John Allee and Isaac Wade play all the gender fluid characters — their talent and stamina are amazing. Mind-blowing quick changes plus carefully delineated characters, plus off-stage voices, abound and have you swearing there are two of each of the actors. Act two takes place in Egypt — same actors, some new characters. This is funny, fun and worth seeing. Through Sun., Nov. 10. Actors Co-op Crossley Theatre, First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower St., 323-462-8460, actorscoop.org. 4 Stars
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