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Theatre NOVA presents the Play of the Month series

A new play written specifically for Zoom each month

 

THE MICHIGAN PREMIERE OF

MORTAL FOOLS

by Catherine Zudak

Premieres March 31, 2021
Available to Festival passholders through May 31, 2021

In “Mortal Fools,” Captain Michaels, an intelligence officer stationed in Afghanistan, has to determine whether or not an Army Major committed treason for the love of a beautiful war correspondent, Lailah. The case appears open and shut, but Michaels has his doubts. He calls on a civilian contractor, his ex-wife, to help him uncover the truth. But, can his ex convince him the reporter is blameless as well? Or will Michaels have to terminate Lailah's life? Directed by Theatre NOVA Producing Artistic Director, David Wolber. Featuring Alysia Kolascz (“Apple Season,” “Bright Half Life”), Patrick Loos, Bryan Lark and Shelby Seeley.

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eCurrent Review
Theatre NOVA’s “Mortal Fools” Asks Engaging Questions About Love, Loyalty, and Doing the Right Thing

“For what seems like a fairly heavy topic, Zudak’s script is a welcome balance of earnest and witty, with humor sprinkled throughout that sets a playful tone to counter the seriousness of the subject matter. The cast has a fairly difficult task in walking the line between funny, romantic, and intense, and they each are able to showcase the complexity and subtlety of what is happening to their characters. Patrick manages to find the wit and dry humor in Michaels, while also showing us what’s underneath.

As Missy, Alysia Kolascz is a sweet foil to Loos’ brusqueness but also serves as the show’s moral compass in many ways, understanding the plight of the Major in a way that her ex-husband can’t. Kolascz exudes compassion and spark right alongside the grit and fierceness that comes with being a woman in a male-dominated environment. Bryan Lark is raw and understated as Major Garland - we really see his inner struggle with wanting to be loyal to his country and to help the woman he loves. And Shelby Seeley, though we sadly never see her on the screen, is a grounding presence as Tully. 
Theatre NOVA Producing Artistic Director David Wolber does a wonderful job of making Mortal Fools flow smoothly, although I wished I could have been sitting in a theatre to see it live. Many of the more intimate moments would have been much more powerful had Loos and Lark been in the same room, but the fact that it was still engaging even through zoom says a great deal about the dedicated work of all the talented individuals involved.

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The Detroit Jewish News Preview
Catherine Zudak’s latest script, Mortal Fools, is a fictionalized drama based on her CIA experiences and interrogation stories recounted to her apart from that internship.

“The characters change in the arc of the story in a world that most people are not familiar with because it takes place in Afghanistan,” said Zudak, who wrote theater grant proposals before plays. “With an American housewife as a main character, the story becomes, in some ways, a war of worlds.”

“I’ve had some plays read by Nova in their new plays Zoom festival, so I had an idea of what they might like. I’ve always been really fascinated by intelligence work. As an intern at the CIA, I met people who liked to live in a world where it’s cloak and dagger, secrets and hidden motivations.”

“I write frequently about the everyman caught up in power struggles where he doesn’t have a lot of control,” Zudak said. “In this case, the main character had an affair and is severely penalized for it by being suspected of a lot of really bad things by bad actors in the intelligence community.

“I’m interested in what happens to these people. Are they crushed? Do they triumph? Or somewhere in between?”

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Pulp: Arts Around Ann Arbor Review
THEATRE NOVA’S ZOOM PLAY SERIES CONTINUES WITH "MORTAL FOOLS" BY ANN ARBOR PLAYWRIGHT CATHERINE ZUDAK

Fools opens with Afghanistan-based intelligence officer Captain “Mike” Michaels (Patrick Loos) calling his ex-wife, former journalist Missy (Alysia Kolascz), who’s been up much of the night with her fussy, feverish baby. Mike wants Missy’s input regarding a case he’s looking into, wherein an officer (Major Garland, played by Bryan Lark) stands accused of treason after getting romantically involved with a female Taliban journalist. Mike has Missy listen in and provide insights as he interrogates Garland, who’s initially reluctant to cooperate.

Zudak, a former CIA intern, makes a point of sprinkling some military lingo (civvey, possibles, listening post, etc.) into her script, placing us within the characters’ world at word level, and the parallels between Mike and Missy’s messy love story and Garland’s are clear.

But what makes Mortal Fools a challenge is the sheer volume of character details that come flying at you fast. 

In addition, Garland’s affair with the Taliban journalist isn’t, in itself, what gets him in trouble, but rather the fact that she helped his team avoid landmines when the convoy that preceded Garland’s was destroyed; and when Garland was initially questioned, he punched a superior officer because of the brutal violence committed against the journalist.

If you’re thinking there’s a lot to hold on to and process here, you’re not wrong. There are so many moving pieces that it’s hard to connect with any particular character or situation - despite director David Wolber’s guidance, and Loos and Kolascz’s convincing rapport.

So Fools ultimately feels like a (bigger) work-in-progress, with Theater Nova’s Zoom production showing off the piece at its sapling stage: the parts are all there, and it may grow into something grand, but it still needs more time and space to grow into its own potential.

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