A Moscow chill is in the air at the Glen Street Theatre with Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, a work that with its humour and touchingly human dilemmas dispels the cliché portrayal of 19th century Russia as harsh, unyielding and soporific.
This Chekhov-inspired play presents a series of different stories narrated by the “writer”, who is charismatic but flawed as he shares his own experiences as well as narratives he has created throughout his life.
The play comprises of 11 scenes, each with its own message: the desperation of youth to impress; the loneliness of aging; keeping dreams alive; and scenes of absolute absurdity. The constant variation keeps the energy flowing so there is never a dull moment.
The Good Doctor is not about simple, cheesy laughs. Its humble comedy deals with the folly and cruelty of Russia in the late 1800s, balancing the darkness and misery of its subject matter with witty dialogue and extensive physical humour. When the plot deals with death, the alternative ending of “inheriting 5 million Roubles” lightens the mood.
This work is a subtle blend of pain, either physical or emotional, with moments of hilarity as in quick succession the audience is dragged from indignant rage at some injustice to joyous laughter.
The five cast members are exceptional and never lack focus. Adriano Cappelleta hits the perfect note as the writer, constantly interacting and engaging with the audience while moving props between scenes allowing for seamless transitions.
David Lynch, the senior member of the cast, excels at portraying the hard, strong type but it is his ability to convey how love remains the same in our golden years that is most touching. His strongest performance was as the gout-ridden banker.
Lenore Smith played Madame, mistress and widow, making each a distinctive character with performances that are powerful but also beguiling. It was a pleasure to see her fragility on stage. Nathan Wilson is excellent playing several of the young male roles; his physical comedy as well as his ability to project is impressive. Chloe Bayliss is prodigious in her young female roles, able to perfectly articulate the various emotions of her characters in every role.
Great attention to detail in putting together the costumes transports the audience back to 19th century Russia.
The Good Doctor is definitely worth seeing. It is multi-layered but also intensely funny, a show for adults that deals with how difficult life can be and how relationships between friends and lovers are fragile. This is powerful heart-warming entertainment, certainly worth 5 million Roubles.