Reviewed by Becca Kidwell
If it wasn’t so funny, it would be serious. Chekov is primarily known for his serious drama: The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, etc. but Neil Simon draws upon Chekov’s short stories for his play, The Good Doctor. Chekov’s short stories have been said to be precursor to Seinfeld. The writer of such tv shows as: Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour recognized the unique comedy style and put stories “about nothing” to the stage years before the tv show “about nothing”. Those who miss the “Junior Mint”, “The Soup Nazi”, and “The Chinese Restaurant” can relish in some new-old stories such as “The Sneeze”, “Surgery”, and “The Drowned Man”. The Independent Drama Society’s final show utilizes the comedic talents to go out with a laugh for the audience and a whimper for the characters.
Bob Mussett, reminiscent of William Hurt, plays the charming writer who sifts though and shares his ideas for stories with the audience. Mussett is engaging and adaptive, a true storyteller. He allows himself to be fully immersed in the character and yet be fully in the moment, directly addressing the audience.
The comic cast enact the various scenarios with both gravity and hilarity. The audience witnesses everyday occurrences of 19th Century Russia–simply exaggerated to the satirical degree. Brian Tuttle, Chris Larson, and Zach Eisenstat tend to steal the scene when they are on stage. Their animated expressions conjure up laughter that will result in a drink spurting out of your nose–if you are drinking at the time–which you shouldn’t–wait for intermission. An example is “The Sneeze”. Tuttle goes “George Costanza” when his character accidentally sneezes on his boss at a show; this obsession over a seemingly insignificant event is matched by the indifference and then annoyance of Eisenstat. Another episode that features Zach Eisenstat and Chris Larson, “The Seduction”, shares the secrets of a prolific lothario who prides himself in romancing wives of poor unsuspecting husbands. While somewhat twisted, Eisenstat almost convinces men in the audience to take notes on his smooth, ironic procedure.
One of the most overtly ludicrous performance by a woman in the play can be attributed to Victoria Townsend in “The Defenseless Creature”. Her outrageous portrayal of a peasant woman in need of assistance demonstrates the apathy that lies in the heart of every person–the same type of action that landed the Seinfeld characters in jail.
Life is funny and it doesn’t need much embellishment for us to recognize the absurdity of our day-to-day existence. Chekov knew it, Seinfeld knew it, and Simon knew it. For a fun weekend of comic observations of the pain and guile of the human condition, go see The Good Doctor, The Independent Drama Society’s final production. Don’t miss the talented, hilarious performances of its cast. Afterwards–and only after you have seen the play, go back home rent some Seinfeld and see how life does not change from decade to decade.
The cast also consists of Chris Anton, Kate Daly, Melissa deJesus, Mark Estano, Sarah J. Gazdowicz, Sierra Kagen, and David N. Rogers. The only reason I didn’t itemize all of their distinct styles of absurdity is because an article that long would be…well, absurd–and you just need to see it for yourself. TNETG. 7/17/11.