The Villagers of Kulyenchikov are, from left, David Samson, Riley Steinmets, Tracy Boettcher and Hahnna Christianson.

Photos by Alayne Vogel/Memory Layne Photography

Last season, Spotlight Youth Theatre debuted its first non-musical with the drama “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Artistic director Kenny Grossman chose to move in a new direction this year with the light-hearted Neil Simon comedy “Fools,” which opened Friday in Glendale.

“We decided to mix it up and do something completely different and very funny,” said Grossman, who directs the production. “(Neil Simon) is one of my favorites and his humor is right up my alley. This is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

Set in the late 1800s, “Fools” revolves around a schoolteacher in a small Ukrainian village plagued with a 200-year-old curse that makes everyone dumb as dirt. The teacher has 24 hours to break the curse himself, or he, too, would become an idiot.

“Fools” allegedly was written by Simon as a result of an agreement with his wife during their divorce proceedings. She was promised the profits of his next play, so he attempted to write something that would never last on Broadway.

The show is modeled after a real village in Poland that is considered the stupidest place on Earth.

Simon succeeded. The show debuted on Broadway in 1981 and lasted for 41 performances.

Though it’s considered a critical flop, “Fools” has continued to be a mainstay at local and professional theaters.

“There is a moral to the story, and the jokes are rapid fire,” Grossman said.

Spotlight’s production of “Fools” features 14 actors, who all worked hard and researched proper Russian accents.

“‘Fools’ really gives the kids a chance to be goofy and have a good time,” he said. “You really get to see that right from the start.”

Grossman said he has a talented cast of Spotlight Youth Theatre regulars and some newcomers.

“I’m extremely proud of them, and they really bring this material to life,” he said. “Be prepared to laugh out loud plenty of times.”

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