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BWW Review: The Duck, Having Quacked, Moves on at the Alley Theatre


BWW Review: The Duck, Having Quacked, Moves on at the Alley Theatre QUACK, a play about a TV doctor a la Dr. Oz, et al, waddled energetically onto the Alley stage and threatened to lay an egg. Not right away, but as the plot unfolded, it seemed more and more likely.

That it didn't is largely due to some superb acting from an extremely capable cast.

Dr. Irving Baer (Chris Hutchison) is the driving force of a TV show empire worth millions. He dispenses medical advice to a vast audience of mostly women who tune in without fail and hang on his every word. To say he is worshipped would not be overstating it.

But with such power comes great responsibility, as Dr. Baer is about to discover.

Meanwhile, he discusses programming tips with his more than able assistant, Kelly Henning (Christina Liang).

Kelly is eager and loyal to a fault. She is his assistant, and he has staff, but he still brings him coffee and does his personal chores, willingly, it seems. She and the doctor are very close.

The doctor's wife, Meredith (Julia Krohn) has an empire of her own, an offshoot of Dr. Baer's show. She peddles a variety of vitamins, herbal remedies, and nostrums that have made her a millionaire in her own right. She is the epitome of the modern woman, and sharp enough to cut glass.

Into this televisual paradise comes River Thumbolt (Michelle Elaine), a journalist with a rocket in her pocket. She has written a hit piece on the good doctor, and she has come for a follow-up interview. She has enough dirt to sink his TV flagship with all aboard. Understandably, Dr. Baer is not very anxious to cooperate, and declines. River publishes anyway.

Then, predictably, all hell breaks loose. And here is when the play gets problematic.

The playwright, Eliza Clark, said in an interview that the play had originally been about the vaccine controversy, but that she had laid it aside for a few years, and then went back to it, deciding to expand the premise to include "...all I was angry about".

And so she did.

The problem is, it doesn't all fit. She added abuse of power, misogyny, feminism and one or two things I might not have caught.

Now I'm a fervent fan of the tightly-written 80-minute one-act. I find intermissions a waste of time, and prefer a format with no interruption, profits to be made at the bar notwithstanding.

But QUACK goes on for an hour and 45 minutes, and that's too long.

By the time the last character, Brock SIlver (Jay Sullivan) got on, I could only wonder when this was going to end. Brock is a proponent of the basest misogyny and believes the world can be saved by the old-fashioned idea that the woman's place is in the stove (Mort Sahl). He wants Dr. Baer to join his movement.

It's anticlimactic.

The playwright has done a fair amount of cut and paste, keeping the vaccine material and adding the angry parts. The seams show.

Now if you're still with me, and remember a statement I made at the beginning concerning the actors, I will expand.

Something the playwright is very good at is sharp, rapid-fire dialogue, and she gives the actors plenty.

Dr. Baer's lengthy tirades pack a punch, and I was in awe of Chris Hutchison. He spat them out in perfect rhythm, and the sheer skill of remembering them was impressive. I kept thinking that if this were a movie, it would have taken the average film actor half a dozen takes to get it.

Same goes for the rest of the cast, especially Christina Liang, who has several exchanges with Dr. Baer that match him word for word, like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, backward and in high heels.

So there it is fans. Something of a mixed review. The acting is great, the first 80 minutes are fun, and you've been warned about the rest. Also be aware that once seated, there is no exit until curtain.

QUACK runs through March 10 at The Alley Theatre

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From This Author Gary Laird