BWW Reviews: New Jewish Theatre's Amusing Production of THE GOOD DOCTOR
The Good Doctor, Neil Simon's take on the short stories of Anton Chekhov, is a decidedly mixed bag. At the time he was writing this work he was dealing with his first wife's illness and busying himself with changes to the screenplay of The Prisoner of Second Avenue. Although it has become a much performed play now, it wasn't a huge success when it was first staged, however several members of the cast were nominated for awards. The New Jewish Theatre's current staging contains some fine performances and sharp direction, but it remains a hit and miss production that's only fitfully funny.
The play is written as a series of eight vignettes that are tied together by narration. Some say the narrator is meant to represent Chekhov, but to me it sounds more like Simon himself, particularly when he talks about the writing process itself. The pieces cover such situations as: a man who sneezes on the back of his boss's head in a theatre, a governess who's cheated out of her earnings, a dentist in training, the seduction of a married woman, a man who ekes out a living by "drowning", an actress auditioning for a role in The Three Sisters, a woman who visits a bank to petition for money for her disabled husband, and a father taking his son to a brothel for the first time.
Aaron Orion Baker does a nice job and comes off best as "The Drowned Man", a poor soul who makes his living by providing "maritime entertainment". Teresa Doggett is very good, and impresses as the employer who cheats her governess in order to teach her a valuable lesson. Jason Grubbe is in fine form throughout, whether he's the victim of a particularly soggy sneeze, or negotiating his son's first foray into manhood. David Wassilak handles the narration adroitly, and also appears in a couple of the vignettes. Alina Volobuyeva shines during "The Audition", playing all three sisters as well as an aspiring actress.
Bobby Miller's direction make the most of this uneven work, but Simon's play only draws sporadic laughter. Dunsi Dai's scenic design is simple and well done, and it features a twinkling backdrop. Maureen Berry's lighting keeps the action clearly in focus and Michele Friedman Siler's costumes are good character fits.
The New Jewish Theatre's amusing production of The Good Doctor continues through October 20, 2013.