CHOICE: FORTUNEíS FOOL
Turgenevís little-known comedy Fortuneís Fool, comes vividly
to life at The Music Box Theatre. With Alan Bates and Frank Langella
playing the leads in this effective adaptation by Mike Poulton,
the production, cleverly directed by Arthur Penn, brings mid-century
Russia to the Great White Way in an always entertaining and, at
times, touching way. For educators, the play might inspire new
ways to bring Russian literature into the classroom.
Bates is Kuzovkin, a down-at-heels nobleman, who has been a houseguest
for many years at a huge country estate recently inherited by
the radiant Olga (Enid Graham) and her new husband, Paul (Benedick
Bates, Alanís son). Olga was a young girl when she left the estate
for St. Petersburg and is eager to showoff her property, her new
husband and resume her old life. Kuzovkinís own estate has been
mired for many years in a tangled legal suit that keeps him from
claiming possession of it. He now worries about staying on here.
Paul, who hopes to restore order to the seriously mismanaged property,
might not let Kuzovkin stay and the neighbor, Tropatchov (Langella),
a spectacularly arrogant dandy snooping from a neighboring estate,
drops in unexpectedly and stirs up trouble for him too. But when
Kuzovkin gets drunk at a gala evening, he blurts out something
so shocking it changes everything.
In the centerpiece of the first act, when Kuzovkin makes this
admission, Bates is both hilarious and pitiful. Langellaís mischiefmaking
Tropatchov is entertaining, too, as he goads the drunken Kuzovkin
into recalling the snarled details of his fruitless efforts to
reclaim his estate.
The Russian estate seen here seems too sleek for Czarist days
and the costumes for Olga look more Gone With The Wind
than 19th century Russia. But these are minor quibbles in an otherwise
engrossing two-act comic melodrama ó a must see for serious New
York theatergoers. (Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45th, $55-$75. #
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