Book, Music, and Lyrics by Santino DeAngelo
Directed by Tralen Doler
THE VERDICT: Foolerie wants you to laugh, and then think about why you laughed. A collection of Shakespeare-inspired fools gather to see who can out-fool the fools by playing out an improvised play, but the challenger has lessons to teach about the underlying darkness underneath any guffaw or chuckle. Don’t worry, though, there’s still a lot of fooling to do.
There’s a lot of individual features about Foolerie to love: strong vocal performances, smart and sharp staging, some well massaged clowning, wit by the pound and chuckles aplenty, but the whole thing never really gains the weight it wants to. The show seems desperate for you to consider its thesis about what comedy really is–and it’s a very thoughtful, true thesis. But most of your time in Foolerie will be spent watching a tedious plot-within-a-plot waiting for the next smartly crafted gag, with much too occasional and vague glimpses at the morals it seems determined to blare at you. As a result, the show starts out strong and often hilarious, and the laughs never totally subside, but as time wears on we get less patient and more hungry for some kind of smart, concrete and weighty revelations that never really come. The show has a wealth of complex, multidimensional fools to pull from the Shakespearean inspiration it wears on its sleeve, but it only skims the surface of those plays rather than trying to emulate the darkness that rumbles underneath. It’s disappointing, too, because it’s a handsomely designed production with some real talent under the hood.
Here’s your point-by-point on what stood out:
- THE PHYSICAL DIRECTION/CHOREOGRAPHY: Tralen Doler’s staging is tight, focused, and possesses a laser-point precision for fool-style clowning. They either worked hard to nail comedic bits or just know exactly how to handle them. And his choreography is suitably goofy and joyous. But the emotional content and the flimsy story rarely get the same attention.
- THE VOCAL PERFORMANCES: The cast is uniform in vocal strength–there’s a lovely classical and operatic vibe that never loses its finesse, even in terribly silly moments. Particular nods go to Ryan Breslin’s grounded soulfulness and Ian Fairlee’s patter skills.
- THE SET DESIGN: I love Jen Price Fick ’s makeshift-style design. The set looks like you could stumble upon it in the town square, waiting for the next street show–there’s a lovely warm sense of color, and it hits a nice note between ragtag and inviting. The audience is up on the flanks of the stage, too, which makes for some good old fashioned let’s-have-fun-messing-with-the-front-row moments.
- THOSE MOMENTS WHERE THE SHOW ACTUALLY GETS SERIOUS: There’s a handful of numbers where the odd play-within-a-play setup is shed and the characters really sing out about what’s in their hearts. It’s still a bit vague lyrics-wise, but the words end up having a lovely childish–foolish, even–innocence and discovery to them. I wish more of the show was as brave as these bits.
WHAT IT’LL GET NOMINATED FOR:
- OUTSTANDING MUSICAL DIRECTION: For Benet Braun. The music is servicable and often works well as a vehicle for the comedy, but the overall musical production is full, excellent, and remarkable.
- OUTSTANDING ORCHESTRATIONS OR ARRANGEMENTS: For Joshua Zecher-Ross. You could swear there was a 20 piece orchestra back there. Simple, dependable orchestrations with a strong handle on what musical jokes the show wants to land.
- EXCELLENCE IN OVERALL DESIGN: In addition to the set, Whitney Locher’s costumes are vibrant and fit the silly tones well, and Mathew J. Fick’s’s lights amplify the sincere moments of the show well.
WHAT IT CAN WIN:
- OUTSTANDING MUSICAL DIRECTION and OUTSTANDING ORCHESTRATIONS OR ARRANGEMENTS.
WHERE IT’LL GO:
Foolerie could sneak into a regional theater as it is, and it’d do fine. I can tell a ton of work went into the script and the author clearly has a lot of thoughts about what comedy means and the tradition of Shakespearean fools, but it needs to be clarified and molded before it could really spark fire at a theater. Keep the cast, keep the performances, keep the design, but find the heart that feels obscured by all the unencumbered fooling.
For more information, visit: http://www.nymf.org/festival/2015-events/foolerie