In its lengthy tenure of 36 years within the metropolis, Washington Stage Guild has made its mark, most notably with performs by a few of these understood as the good masters who based trendy drama — Ibsen and Shaw, Wilde and Chekhov. The corporate has opened its “Season of Transitions” with that curiosity The Good Physician, penned by Neil Simon sharing writing credit with none aside from Anton Chekhov, Russia’s biggest dramatist, who died in 1904.
Simon dominated the Broadway stage mid-Twentieth century along with his hit comedies, however he was most frequently underappreciated by the New York critics. So when he made a pivot in 1973 along with his diversifications of a few of Chekhov’s brief tales, one has to marvel what spurred him to take action. Like Chekhov, who along with his 4 main performs wrote over 500 brief tales, Simon was a prolific author. Maybe Simon needed to do a deeper dive into characterization by finding out how the Russian observer of human life discovered such dimensionality and humanity in his characters. Maybe he felt he wanted a number of the “good physician’s” medication to exorcise his grievances in opposition to the Broadway critics.
Simon mined ten of Chekhov’s brief tales and wove by these impartial vignettes the character of a author who, serving as his personal alter ego, narrates, introduces characters and conditions, and appears compulsively pushed to “write, write, write.” You hear his self-referencing when the character voices faint reward by one critic claiming the author was “charming and intelligent however a far cry from Tolstoy.”
Cameron McNary performs the Author/Narrator with pumped-up vitality and an assured means of breaking the fourth wall to have interaction with the viewers in direct handle. Nevertheless, McNary had a behavior of breaking off inhalations to begin a line, like a seal gulping a fish, which started to harass. Was this a personality alternative?
Chekhovian comedy is hard, a mix of broad farce however all the time stuffed with pathos and grounded in verisimilitude. The corporate didn’t fairly handle to realize the tone evenly.
Director Laura Giannarelli was most profitable within the vignettes that demonstrated delicate pathos. She formed a stunning scene in its simplicity, “Too Late for Happiness,” between the veteran actress and founding member Lynn Steinmetz and Morgan Duncan. There they have been, a shy older couple assembly on a park bench. The scene featured a duet, and as they sang softly, their tremulous and uncovered voices mirrored the deep fact of hesitancy blended with eager for one final probability at love. (How a lot richer, I assumed, than the blare that dominates in the present day’s over-amplified Broadway musical or the hurried clutchings of pace courting for a “hook up.”)
An actress new to me on the Washington stage was Arika Thames. I particularly appreciated the shift of energy she portrayed from a meek governess to a lady who runs away with greater than her simply earnings from a silly, avaricious landowner’s spouse. This tall, lovely artist might be seen far more regionally, I wager. As she took on a second of appearing all three sisters on the finish of the play of that identify, she all of a sudden dropped all mannerisms and stylization, and I assumed, right here was her stellar audition second and Chekhov revealed.
All in all, Morgan Duncan delivers probably the most diverse and persistently profitable characterizations. He carries off the stuffed-and-puffed-up class magnificence of a basic in “The Sneeze” solely to return later in Act I in a extremely physicalized comedic romp as a poor sexton in want and worry of a tooth extraction. In Act II, he will get teamed with McNary as two “previous coots,” navy veterans, who weekly wage verbal battle with one another on issues of nice opinion corresponding to the final word lunch menu. This was one of many moments when as if the clouds parted, we have been handled by each actors to what Inventive Director Invoice Largess referred to as Chekhov’s “affection for even his most silly characters.”
An excessive amount of of this manufacturing, nonetheless, carried on too loudly and too over-the-top. Scott Harrison delivered characters from a cartoon universe, and his voice was too typically pitched at his breaking level along with his face set in grimacing masks to match. Every time the voices and appearing broadened to this diploma by members of the ensemble, it had a curious flattening impact.
The set by Joseph Musumeci Jr. and lighting by Marianne Meadows labored hand in glove to take advantage of the calls for of the totally different settings of those vignettes, however within the lengthy, low proscenium that’s WSG’s stage, there have been too many pushed moments that jarred the stage photos. Because the efficiency settles, the corporate will certainly be taught to belief the fabric of “the nice physician.”
Operating Time: Two hours half-hour together with one intermission.
The Good Physician performs by October 23, 2022, introduced by Washington Stage Guild performing in The Undercroft Theatre at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($50–$60, with half off for college students and $10 off for seniors) may be bought on-line.
COVID Security: All patrons should put on masks always whereas within the theater. Washington Stage Guild’s full Well being and Security Coverage is right here.
The Good Physician
Written by Neil Simon and Anton Chekhov
Directed by Laura Giannarelli
With Morgan Duncan, Scott Harrison, Cameron McNary, Lynn Steinmetz, and Arika Thames
Set Design by Joseph B. Musumeci Jr.
Lighting Design by Marianne Meadows
Costume Design by Sígrid Jóhannesdóttir
Sound Design by Marcus Darnley
Battle Choreography by John Gurski
Stage Supervisor Arthur Nordlie
Produced by Washington Stage Guild