Guest Review by Jessica Muller
Saturday, September 17, 2011. 10:20 PM
The Good Doctor, which is staging its final performance at Rose Valley’s Hedgerow Theatre tomorrow (Sunday, September 18), is a warm, comedic play by Neil Simon based on eleven tales of the human condition, as narrated by the character Dr. Anton Chekhov.
The staging in the Hedgerow’s modest, intimate setting gives the audience many opportunities to feel particularly engaged by an entertaining production. Audience members are reminded that a plain set with few props is perfectly adequate, as long as the vignettes are told through vivid acting and writing.
The play itself is Simon’s cheeky take on the process of writing and on being a writer: the gathering of ideas, the search for inspiration, and the torture puts upon oneself when relegated to such a profession. “Why,” Chekhov (very charmingly acted by Jared Reed) asks the audience at the beginning of the journey, “am I writer?” (followed by “Why do I have no choice but to be a writer?”) Simon’s premise is a day inside what must or could have been taking place in Chekhov’s head.
Five comedic tales are in Act One of this entertaining performance. From “The Sneeze” to “The Seduction,” Simon’s writing gives the audience each story in a precise, poignant manner with such relatable human conditions as sadness, happiness, suffering and joy.
Act Two features the six remaining tales; the highlights were “The Audition” (which featured a great performance by Rebecca Cureton) and “A Quiet War” (about two frenemies – one Army, one Navy – who meet once a week for a battle of wits and one-uppers). In “A Quiet War,” Zoran Kovcic gives a fine performance as the retired Army character, as he handily does in his other roles: the Sexton in “Surgery” and Kisunov the banker in “A Defenseless Creature.”
Shaun Yates, Susan Wefel, Leanna Rubin, Dave Polgar, James Cella, Nicole laBonde, Terry Gleason and Maggie Flynn also showed their varied acting talents during a pleasant outing to the Hedgerow.
The house was about half full, and the crowd was responsive and lively, happy to be entertained by such a sweet ensemble of stories and characters.
Our thoughtful narrator, Chekhov, closes the play with the answer to his original question, as his character looks around in his memory of a day of writing, seeing his fellow cast of humans, in their array of senses and emotions. He tells himself “I always wondered what I most wanted to do in my life,” and, when he looks around, feeling contentment and peace, he realizes that maybe he is doing just that. Exactly what he wanted all along.
The next production at the Hedgerow is Black Coffee by Agatha Christie, which is scheduled to run from September 22 through November 13.