Theater Info for the Washington DC region

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School Fools

By • Nov 10th, 2011 • Category: Cappies

A 19th century Ukrainian village may seem like an unlikely setting for a romantic comedy. Yet, when the inhabitants of Kulyenchikov, an ostensibly idyllic hamlet are revealed to be the victims of a curse causing chronic feeblemindedness for anyone living in their community, the humor of the situation becomes quite apparent. To put it bluntly, everyone is a complete and total idiot. This is the tale told in Neil Simon’s unusual comic fable, Fools, brought to life with refreshing whimsy by a commendable production team from St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School.

Celebrated American playwright Neil Simon wrote Fools in 1981, with the intention that it wouldn’t last on Broadway. His failure was intended to spite his ex-wife, who had been promised the proceeds of his next play in their divorce settlement. While it did close after just 40 performances, the play retains a charming message and hilarious comedy. The story follows an idealistic young teacher, Leon Tolchinsky, arriving in Kulyenchikov determined to enlighten and educate his new pupil, Sophia Zubritsky. However, he soon realizes a staggering abnormality in the citizenry of his new home. The town is afflicted by a dark enchantment that strips away the mental capacities of its inhabitants, resulting in a population of irrefutably stupid people. Leon discovers he must leave within 24 hours of his arrival or fall victim to the curse as well, but matters are complicated as he quickly becomes enamored with the beautiful, albeit clueless, Sophia and vows to break the village, and his new love, of the curse.

Matthew Mirliani anchored the production as the bright and genial Leon Tolchinsky. With concise motions and assured posture, Mirliani gave an engaging performance, exuding an educated and conscientious disposition fitting of a school teacher. While interacting with the mentally deficient townspeople, his bewildered expressions and confused vocal inflections added an amusing touch to his portrayal. Sibet Partee played the notoriously dim-witted but beautiful Sophia with a doe-eyed, girlish innocence, and forming an endearing duo with Mirliani.

Virginia Coffield’s hysterical portrayal of Sophia’s mother, Lenya Zubritsky, gave this production life and hilarity at every turn. Coffield’s constant effervescence, exhibited in fits of giggles, priceless idiosyncrasies, and uproarious expressions, demonstrated her adeptness for characterization. A truly believable fool, her performance stood out among a cast that sometimes struggled with overall energy, convincing mannerisms, and consistently entertaining comedy. In tandem with Coffield, Christian Osborne depicted Dr. Zubritsky, her husband. Showing palpable comedic chemistry, the two made for an extremely humorous couple, bringing smiles and laughs to every scene they were in.

A simple but highly efficient set consisted of double-sided flats that were maneuvered to form the village as well as the home settings–all effortlessly transformed throughout the show. The costumes were mostly fitting to the period and location of the show, and widely enhanced the rustic feeling. A sound team utilized ten microphones with few noticeable foibles, while a beautifully composed score by student Heather McPherson captured the mood of the show perfectly.

St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School overcame a difficult script and occasional lulls in energy to produce a charming show with a resounding message. Everyone, no matter how foolish they may seem, can break free from the darkness of ignorance into a world of enlightenment and free thought.

Review submitted by Damian Leverett – of McLean High School.

Photo Gallery

Matthew Mirliani, Claire Malkie Virginia Coffield, Matthew Mirliani, Christian Osbourne
Matthew Mirliani, Claire Malkie
Virginia Coffield, Matthew Mirliani, Christian Osbourne
Matthew Mirliani, Sibet Partee Tre Allison
Matthew Mirliani, Sibet Partee
Tre Allison
Aaron Brackett, Claire Malkie, Heather Hartzell,  Lizzie Beane
Aaron Brackett, Claire Malkie, Heather Hartzell, Lizzie Beane

Photos by Marty LaVor

Tagged as: , ,

This article can be linked to as:

is a program which was founded in 1999, for the purpose of celebrating high school theater arts and providing a learning opportunity for theater and journalism students. You can learn more at

Comments are closed.