How far will you go to protect the ones you love? And what will love make you blind to? These questions are asked, pondered, and left for the audience to answer in Catherine Zudak’s play Mortal Fools, now streaming on-demand in a new production by Theatre NOVA.
Part of Theatre NOVA’s “Play of the Month” Series, Mortal Fools is the story of Captain Michaels, an intelligence officer stationed in Afghanistan who must interrogate a superior officer about possible treasonous actions he has committed in the name of love. To help him find Major Garland’s motivations, Michaels needs his ex-wife, civilian contractor Missy, which stirs up his own questions about love and loyalty.
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 Loos as Captain Michaels has in some ways the most difficult job — showing us a firm, authoritative figure who is also wrestling with some unresolved feelings for Missy and isn’t sure exactly how to help Garland. Loos 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. The Major’s love interest, Lailah, is never seen, which in many ways makes her a more compelling character in the show.
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.
Many of us have made decisions we regret because of someone we love. We’ve even made decisions we were proud of but that got us into trouble, because of someone we loved. Mortal Fools makes us reflect on those times in our lives. The play may not give us answers, but by raising the questions in such a skillful way, it may help us get them on our own.
Mortal Fools is available on-demand at www.theatrenova.org through the end of May.