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Theatre / Fools

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Fools is a 1981 comedy play written by Neil Simon. The plot involves a schoolteacher named Leon Tolchinsky arriving in the village of Kulyenchikov (located somewhere in Ukraine) in order to educate the town doctor's daughter. Leon promptly falls in Love at First Sight with the beautiful Sophia. However, it turns out that Kulyenchikov is under a curse. The town has been cursed with stupidity for centuries. The curse also makes it impossible for Sophia and the other villagers to leave the town or grasp the concept of love. The only way to break the curse is for Leon to either educate Sophia or for her to marry another man; Count Gregor Yousekevitch. Unfortunately, Leon only has 24 hours before he too falls victim to the curse.


Fools allegedly was written as the result of an agreement Simon made with his wife during their divorce proceedings. She was promised the profits of his next play, so he set out to write something that never would last on Broadway. Given that it closed after forty performances, he succeeded.

A musical version was written by Ted Kopulos.

The main characters include:

  • Leon Tolchinsky - A schoolteacher who is brought to Kulyenchikov to educate Sophia. He falls in love with Sophia and vows to break the curse so that she will not have to marry Count Gregor. Leon is very intelligent but also stubborn and short sighted, making it hard for him to adjust to the wacky Kulyenchikov.
  • Sophia Zubritsky - The beautiful and kind daughter of the town's doctor. Leon falls in love with her. She is the one who can break the curse as she is the descendant of the original Sophia who caused the curse. The curse can only be broken if she is educated or if she marries a Yousekevitch. Sophia is a simple soul but is much smarter than everyone gives her credit for. She craves knowledge and love and is often just as stubborn as Leon.
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  • Count Gregor Yousekevitch - The descendant of the family that put the curse of stupidity on Kulyenchikov. He attempts to break the curse by marrying Sophia. He believes himself to be much smarter than the others and believes himself to be smarter than he actually is. He strikes fear in the hearts of the other villagers, making them tremble tremble.
  • Dr. Nikolai Zubritsky - The town doctor, husband of Lenya and father of Sophia. A true fool through and through who acts as an unofficial leader of the town. He has a tendency to belittle his wife and daughter.
  • Lenya Zubritsky - Nikolai's wife and Sophia's mother. Much like her husband, she tends to belittle others but, like her daughter, she is smarter than the others give her credit for.
  • Magistrate - The very old town official. He performs the important town duties like running the bell and being the minister at the wedding.
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  • Something Something Snetsky - The local shepherd who can't remember his own name.
  • Mishkin - The postman who knows facts about the curse.
  • Slovitch - The butcher who, even by Kulyenchikov standards, is very, very stupid.
  • Yenchna - The local female vendor who is often made fun of for her age and appearance.
  • Alexei - Leon's con artist uncle. A character added to the musical, he becomes Yenchna's love interest.

This work provides examples of:

  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Leon and Gregor. Leon narrates the whole show and both he and Gregor give asides and openly talk to the audience.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted with Mishkin's urgent letter for Leon. Leon plays it off as the exact thing they need to answer their problems. In actuality the letter has no importance at all; Leon is just lying.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Count Gregor's ancestor laid a powerful curse of eternal stupidity upon every inhabitant of Kulyenchikov. Unfortunately, he failed to consider that he lived in Kulyenchikov. As such, his entire line, including Count Gregor, is also hopelessly moronic.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: What makes everyone fear Count Gregor? He wants to marry a pretty girl and break the curse that has been plaguing them!
  • Gender Flip: In many productions Snetsky, Mishkin, Slovitch and the magistrate are played by women.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The three women in the cast (Well, usually). Sophia is the Maiden, Lenya the Mother and Yenchna the crone.
  • Identical Grandson: Sophia is the key to breaking the curse due to her being the direct descendant of the original Sophia Zubritsky who caused the curse.
  • Info Dump: Several scenes, most notably Act 1, Scene 3. Leon's narration often delves into this too.
  • The Musical: Kulyenchikov: A Musical Fable
  • No Fourth Wall: Both Leon and Gregor talk to the audience and at one point Leon warns the audience that they too are susceptible to the curse since they are technically sitting in Kulyenchikov.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: One of the provisions of the curse is that anyone who enters Kulyenchikov has only twenty-four hours to break the spell or become just as stupid as everyone else in the village. When Leon's twenty-four hours are up, he gets a slack-jawed expression on his face and starts acting just as idiotic as the others. However, he ultimately reveals that he was just lying to scare off Count Gregor.
  • Only Sane Man: Leon is the only character not victim to the curse, so he would be the obvious choice for this. However, Count Gregor seems to think he is the Only Sane Man, as well.
  • Original Cast Precedent: Sophia is the only one who does not have an accent. Similarly sets tend to have a sign carrying a town motto that isn't mentioned anywhere in the script: "If Ignorance is Bliss, then this place must truly be Paradise".
  • Overly Long Name: Leon Steponovitch Tolchinsky, Sophia Irena Elynya Zubritsky and Count Gregor Mikhailovitch Breznofsky Fyodor Yousekevitch.
  • Race Against the Clock: Those who enter Kulyenchikov have exactly twenty-four hours to either get out of town or break the curse. If they don't, they're subjected to it and become permanently stupid as well.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Count Yousekevitch and Yenchna, though it depends on their portrayer more than anything.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Sophia and the original Sophia, whose beauty literally caused a curse.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the curse was broken The Magistrate became a great judge, but fell into corruption and eventually was convicted for fraud. Mishkin gave up the postal service and wrote a six-hundred page novel on the Curse of Kulyenchikov, only to have it lost in the mail. Slovitch confirmed his greatest fears of being hopelessly stupid, when he bought four butcher shops in a town that only needed one and went bankrupt within a month. Snetsky found his sheep, and eventually in time became a great philanthropist. Yenchna went into real estate and now owns seventeen houses in Kulyenchikov, including Count Gregor's mansion. Lenya became the first female mayor of Kulyenchikov. Dr. Zubritsky got accepted into a school of medicine and interior design became an esteemed doctor and now works for the Royal Family. Count Gregor renounced his bad ways and became the town monk. Leon continues to teach, and Sophia happily bore their child.