If you go
What: Neil Simon's "Fools," produced by the Steamboat Springs High School theater department
When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 4
Where: Steamboat Springs High School auditorium
Steamboat Springs Neil Simon's "Fools" is so silly the high school students putting it on almost feel bad laughing at the play's jokes.
Set in the fictional village of Kulyenchikov, Ukraine, "Fools" starts out with a schoolteacher named Leon. He comes to Kulyenchikov and notices something awry: The people he meets can't answer simple questions - they forget their first names and nothing they do makes sense.
Turns out, Kulyenchikov is saddled with a 200-year-old curse that has struck everyone born in the village irrevocably, ridiculously stupid.
"You laugh at it, and then you're kind of like, 'Wow, that was really bad. They're just making fun of the stupid people,'" John Oakland said. The Steamboat Springs High School senior is cast as the village butcher and as an evil count whose ancestors set the curse.
Theater teacher Amy Pottinger said she chose the play specifically for its light-hearted, face-value sense of humor.
"I think it's just silly, and I think that everybody's feeling a lot of stress in terms of the recession," Pottinger said. "We hear about everyone losing their jobs, and I think the kids are starting to feel that. : So I was hoping that we could just do a play that's silly and fun, and they could be kids and just be silly."
The play, which relies heavily on students' delivery of simple jokes for its humor, also gives young actors a chance to develop their skills, Pottinger said.
Sophomore Justin Doerr, who is one of two students playing Leon in alternating shows, said the two-month rehearsal process has offered a different experience than his previous work with school musicals.
"Most of the plays I've been in have been serious. : But this one is full-out comedy that's not hard to understand at all," Doerr said.
Acting in musicals, Doerr said he was able to fall back on the songs and his peers in lead roles. "Fools" has pushed him to learn how to get into a character.
"I have grown personally a lot in the play just as far as my skill goes," Doerr said.
Sophomore Camille Sachs plays Sophia Zubritsky, the girl who must fall in love with an outsider - the schoolteacher - within 24 hours of his arrival or marry the evil count to break the curse for the village. It's the first time Sachs has played a funny character in a straight play, she said.
"I haven't played a lot of leads before, but a lead is usually a powerful character. It's hard to be important to the audience without being stupid too much," Sachs said.
The levity of the play could offer a break for audiences, Pottinger said.
"On a certain level, we all need a little of that," she said. "You don't have to come to this and think. You just laugh and have fun and see good kids doing good work."