Fortune's Fool by Ivan Turgenev, adapted by Mike Poulton. Directed by Arthur Penn. Set design by John Arnone. Costume design by Jane Greenwood. Lighting design by Brian Nason. Sound design by Brian Ronan. Original music by Kramer. Cast: Alan Bates, Frank Langella, Enid Graham, Benedick Bates, Beth Bartley, Timothy Doyle, Ann Ducati, Patrick Hallahan, Jeremy Hollingworth, George Morfogen, John Newton, Edwin C. Owens, Lola Pashalinski.
There is a sublime and almost euphoric pleasure only felt when watching genuinely talented people plying their craft. Pay a visit to Fortune’s Fool, which opened tonight at the Music Box theatre, to experience it for yourself.
Arthur Penn has directed Mike Poulton’s savvy adaption of Ivan Turgenev’s minor play with his usual intelligence and style, making easily accessible the story of great humor and that particular Russian sense of high tragedy which verges on the absurd. What we have here is, thanks to two great performances, the funniest serious play currently running on Broadway.
Alan Bates, as a destitute nobleman, and Frank Langella, as an interfering neighbor, are brilliantly matched, each playing against and off the other in a pair of the best realized performances this season. Watching them possess the stage as to the manor born, one has a sense of deja vu, of catching glimpses of grand performances from some long vanished golden era when legendary actors trod the boards.
In a uniformly strong supporting cast, two deserve special notice. George Morfogen, friend to Bates’ impoverished nobleman, and Timothy Doyle, Langella’s “Little Fish,” both make an impression which far exceeds the size of their roles. Doyle in particular has several moments in which an economy of effect plays tellingly in context.
The elements of the physical production - set design by John Arnone, costume design by Jane Greenwood, and lighting design by Brian Nason - blend together seamlessly and evoke a genuine rural Russian period feeling. The sound design by Brian Ronan is good enough to go unnoticed.
Fortune’s Fool is that rare thing, a funny, satisfying and emotionally rewarding evening at the theatre. And under Penn’s direction, Bates and Langella are not to be missed! Fortune’s Fool is the first genuine “must see” this season.