United Players of Vancouver

Fortune's Fool

By Ivan Turgenev

Venue: Jericho Arts Centre
Dates: 14 November - 7 December 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan




Directors: Arvydas Lebeliunas and Sakalas Uzdavinys Stage design :Vladimir Bezruc Costume design: Svetlana Bardos Lighting design : Eugene Mendelev Sound design: Kevin Naphtali Stage Manager: Vonia Arslanian




Fortune's Fool! Photos: Chris LeMay
copyright  United Players of Vancouver 2002

This little known Turgenev work is interestingly presented by the United Players at Jericho Arts Centre. The play opens in the garden room of a Russian manor house of a large country estate, where all is in excited turmoil as the servants and the hysterical steward frantically make ready for the imminent arrival of the long absent, orphaned daughter of the house and her newly wed husband from St Petersburg.

Benighted in this frenetic activity is Kuzovkin (Ian Neeson). He has been in residence for 30 years as friend and licensed fool to the late master. Anxious as he is to meet the new owner, whom he last saw as a beloved child, and her husband, he has underlying fears that he may be evicted from the only home he has known for the last three decades. These fears are voiced and endorsed by his quiet and steadfast friend and neighbour, Ivanov, sympathetically acted by Paul David Richter. With the arrival of young and pretty Olga (Leigh Hibberson) and her cold hearted husband Paul (Matthew Spears), come uninvited neighbours, the ostentatious, vulgar Tropatchov, ebulliently played by Forbes Angus, and his obedient, sycophant, Karpatchov (Robert Meister).

Having invited himself to dinner the brash Tropatchov assumes the old acquaintance right to make a fool of Kuzovkin, by getting him hopelessly inebriated. Inveigled by this boor, Kuzovkin launches into a long rigmarole of how he has been fighting a court battle for years, for his own estates, finishing in a drunken stupor. Amid sniggers, his tormentors crown him with a fools cap and



garlands of flowers. In his humiliation and bitter desire for revenge, Kuzovkin blurts out the long concealed family secret of Olga's paternity

In the cold light of the next day, Kuzovkin's revelation is debated dubiously by Paul and the other gentry. Kuzovkin is offered a large bribe to leave the district and never reveal the secret again. After some hesitation and altercation, he sadly says goodbye to the distressed Olga, pretends that his court case has miraculously been resolved and that he is now independent, and departs, leaving unanswered questions and a sense of shame behind him.

Much of the direction of this production is imaginative and interesting, but unfortunately is sometimes clumsy in its execution. The descent of the enormous central lampshade to encircle Kuzovkin in his semiconscious state is certainly a way of setting him apart and, by surrounding him by a flimsy barrier, cutting him off from reality. The problem is that the lampshade and its lowering and raising are all too real and not ethereal, thus impeding the transitions from reality and illusion. In the same way,  was the stone faced reverse of the lamp shade, upright against the back wall in the second act, the barrier between the world of private privilege and that of the harsh reality of life beyond its sheltering strength?

This unfamiliar and fascinating play is well worth seeing and United Players are to be congratulated on bringing it to Vancouver to give the West an opportunity to enjoy this work, hitherto only seen in regions east of B.C. Thank you, Andree Karas and United Players for this experience.

Fortune's Fool runs at The Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street (at NW Marine Drive) November 14 - December 7, 2003 at 8.00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. For tickets call: (604) 224-8007

2003, Jane Penistan