Tuesday, October 29, 2013

THE TRIVIA JOB • OnSite Theatre Company

Ready for a little trivia night action?  "The Trivia Job", written specifically for OnSite by Dan Rubin, makes its debut in Soulard.  In keeping with OnSite's tradition of producing plays in site-specific locations, this one takes place at the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and includes three rounds of trivia -- "The Good", "The Bad", and "The French."

Some members of the fictional St. Francis Parish are putting on the trivia night to raise money for the expensive repairs needed to restore their tornado-damaged church.  That's their story, anyway.  What they're really planning is a bank heist.  After being welcomed by Allison (Ann Marie Mohr), a rather high-strung member of the parish, she stumps for donations and stalls while we wait for the master of ceremonies.  Listening in to her table, we learn that the trivia night is just a cover for a planned robbery of the Anheuser-Busch Credit Union -- which happens to be just down the street.  Along with Allison, there's her daughter Patricia (Julia Zasso), willing but soft-spoken participant Betsy (Michelle Hand), and the orchestrator of it all, Maxine (Donna Weinsting) -- all playing together on a team called, the "Knitting Ministry".  They were thrown off slightly when the original mc had to bow out after coming down with the shingles, but they called in the unsuspecting Father Calvin Truss (Ben Nordstrom) as a replacement, who finally arrives, gasping and out of breath.  As the night goes on, not only do we get to play trivia, we also get to see how their plan goes down.  Will they be successful?

Julia Zasso (Patricia Cross), Ann Marie Mohr (Allison Cross),
Michelle Hand (Betsy White),
Ben Nordstrom (Father Calvin Truss)
and Donna Weinsting (Maxine Peters).
Photo credit: Opal Andrews
Rubin's simple, straightforward plot is enhanced by the surroundings, though with everyone getting so wrapped up in the trivia, it becomes easy to forget you're watching a play -- maybe a little too easy.  Cause you know I'm all about, "The show has started.  STFU."  Still, Anna Pileggi's direction and the performances do a pretty good job directing attention at the right times to the right things, and it's fun to watch for the humorously conspicuous goings-on in the meantime.

At points during the trivia, members of the Knitting Ministry are called upon to fill for time, allowing everyone a moment to share some insight into their characters.  Some of these are funny, even poignant, but sometimes go on just a tad too long.  Allison has a typically strained relationship with her daughter, who's harboring a crush on Father Calvin.  Betsy's stream-of-consciousness rambling to fill time lets us in on more of what's behind that placid expression of her's.  Maxine, the plain-spoken, wallet-on-a-chain, plaid wearing mastermind, who intends to use ferrets as a crucial part of the plan, insists that she has taught the ladies everything they need to pull it off, and has a revelation or two of her own.  So does Father Calvin, who grows suspicious while trying to fend off a hangover.

So, get a group together, name your team, get your tickets, bring your snacks, and play some trivia at MCC!  It's a fun night of entertainment.

Our team came in second.  :)


Donna Weinsting (Maxine Peters), Michelle Hand (Betsy White),
Ben Nordstrom (Father Calvin Truss),
Julia Zasso (Patricia Cross) and Ann Marie Mohr (Allison Cross).
Photo credit: Opal Andrews
THE TRIVIA JOB

Written by Dan Rubin
Directed by Anna Pileggi
Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St Louis,
1919 S. Broadway Ave.
through November 9 | tickets: $25
Performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm

Cast:
Michelle Hand (Betsy White), Ann Marie Mohr (Allison Cross), Ben Nordstrom* (Father Calvin Truss), Donna Weinsting (Maxine Peters), and Julia Zasso (Patricia Cross).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Assistant director, Louisa Kornblatt; stage manager, Linda Menard.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD • New Line Theatre

George A. Romero's classic horror film may not seem that scary to audiences today, but when "Night of the Living Dead" was released in 1968, it scared the crap out of people, and is believed to have provided the prototype for countless zombie films that followed.  New Line Theatre begins its 23rd season with the musical based on this film, but it's no tongue-in-cheek affair.  What powers this musical isn't fast-paced action, madcap choreography or shambling flesh-eaters.  It's the tension generated by watching six terrified people who find themselves together, trapped in a farmhouse, struggling to survive the night.

Rob Lippert's scenic design makes an immediate impression when you walk in -- the most realistic I think I've ever seen at New Line's current space.  Once the lights go down, it's hard to distinguish where the set ends and where the house begins, making the audience feel as confined as the characters.  In the opening number, "Perfect", the people who have all sought shelter in the farmhouse recall the earlier moments of their day, before everything went wrong.

Zachary Allen Farmer (Ben), Sarah Porter (Helen),
Mike Dowdy (Harry), Marcy Wiegert (Barbra),
Joseph McAnulty (Tom) and Mary Beth Black (Judy).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Harry and Helen (Mike Dowdy and Sarah Porter), a not quite happily married couple, were on a drive with their daughter Karen (Phoebe Desilets).  Tom and Judy (Joseph McAnulty and Mary Beth Black) are a young couple on their way to the lake, and Barbra (Marcy Wiegert) and her brother Johnny were visiting a cemetery.  Ben (Zachary Allen Farmer) drove to the house after seeing a truck at a local diner crash and explode after being overrun with ghouls.  The backstories of these people are revealed through the course of the play, all tied together by the sporadic broadcasts they become glued with continued efforts to secure the house and plan their next move, while paranoia lurks in every corner.

(l-r) Zachary Allen Farmer (Ben), Joseph McAnulty (Tom)
and Mike Dowdy (Harry).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Many of the lyrics sound more like an incoherent stream of consciousness kind of thing -- Barbra's "Music Box" and "Johnny and Me" in particular.  Wiegert, who plays Barbra, spends most of the evening in a state of shock, staring into space or mindlessly shifting her weight back-and-forth, recounting the last moments with her brother with confused babbling -- to successfully, unsettling effect.  Farmer's Ben heads up the efforts to fortify the farmhouse and grounds the group with his clear thinking, and the numbers with a rich voice.  McAnulty and Black, last seen together in New Line's production of "Next to Normal", gave convincing performances as the young couple, with McAnulty's Tom having periodic freak-outs and Black's Judy remaining more distanced -- both delivering a beautiful, "We'll Be Alright".  Black's "This House, This Place" is also quite beautiful.  Dowdy's hot-tempered Harry butts heads with just about everyone, including Porter as his curt and cutting wife.  Their number, "Drive" was a highlight, along with "Ten Minutes Till Three" with Barbra, Ben, Helen and Harry.  Kudos also to Desilets as Karen, the young daughter who spends most of the time recuperating under a blanket in the cellar until near the end.


Mike Dowdy (Harry), Zachary Allen Farmer (Ben)
and Sarah Porter (Helen).
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
Director Scott Miller pulls no punches in this production.  Its pace is deliberate -- slow and suspenseful, with the creative design complementing the strong voices and engaging performances.  Lippert's detailed set has areas for the cellar, the main floor, a small kitchen nook and an upper level attic, with a scrim wall hinting at the band behind, who handle the score wonderfully.  Lippert is also responsible for the lighting design that casts creepy shadows in different areas, and includes cool effects for the molotov cocktails that are at one point thrown out of the upstairs window.  Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert's costume design informs each character nicely and Kerrie Mondy's sound design helps set the mood.

Like those old black-and-white horror films, "Night of the Living Dead" does more than scare -- it will give you a chill.  Bolstered by a score full of tight harmonies, surprising melodies, (particularly the "Broadcast" reprises) and a solid cast and crew, this regional premiere makes for another "must see" for the area's bountiful Halloween season of theatre.


The set for New Line Theatre's "Night of the Living Dead,"
designed by Rob Lippert.
Photo credit: Jill Ritter Lindberg
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

Book by Stephen Gregory Smith
Lyrics by Stephen Gregory Smith & Matt Conner
Music by Matt Conner
Directed by Scott Miller
Washington University South Campus Theatre, 6501 Clayton Road
through November 2 | tickets: $10 - $20
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm

Cast:
Zachary Allen Farmer (Ben), Marcy Wiegert (Barbra), Mike Dowdy (Harry), Sarah Porter (Helen), Joseph McAnulty (Tom), Mary Beth Black (Judy) and Phoebe Desilets (Karen).

Creative:
Scenic & lighting design by Rob Lippert; costume design by Sarah Porter & Marcy Wiegert; sound design by Kerrie Mondy; props, Alison Helmer; stage manager, Gabe Taylor. 

The New Line Band:
Piano/conductor, Sue Goldford; bass, Vince Clark; cello, Daniel Dickson; violin, Nikki Glenn; second keyboard, Joel Hackbarth; percussion, Clancy Newell.

Monday, October 14, 2013

EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL • Stray Dog Theatre

Five kids, a remote cabin in the woods, and an ancient Book of the Dead.  Nothing could possibly go wrong, right?  Ha!  Stray Dog's camp-tacular blood-fest is back -- complete with the traditional "Splatter Zone" seats.  "Evil Dead: The Musical", based on Sam Raimi's cult-classic horror flicks, "The Evil Dead" and "Evil Dead II", was a sold-out smash when Stray Dog produced it in 2010, so it's back to add a good dose of winking, gory mirth to the Halloween season.

Ash (Paul Cereghino) heads up our motley crew of college kids on their way to the woods for a weekend getaway.  He's taking his girlfriend Linda (Eileen Engel), his best friend Scott (C.E. Fifer), hoping to get lucky with the bubbleheaded Shelly (Angela Bubash) who's there for the ride, with Ash's goofy little sister Cheryl (Anna Skidis) tagging along.  Once at the cabin, they find weapons, a Book of the Dead and a tape recorder in the cellar -- left there by the owner, Professor Knowby.  Naturally, the guys read from the book and play the audio recording to antagonize the girls, and once the incantations from the book are played back, a multitude of demons are unleashed.  Meanwhile, the late professor's daughter, Annie (Brittany Kohl), anxious to investigate her father's work, heads to the cabin with her husband Ed (Michael A. Wells), and their guide Jake (Zachary Stefaniak).  Once they arrive, not expecting that a bunch of kids have broken in, they find that all hell has broken loose.

(l to r) Anna Skidis (Cheryl), C.E. Fifer (Scott),
Angela Bubash (Shelly), Eileen Engel (Linda)
and Paul Cereghino (Ash).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Cereghino leads the group as our square-jawed hero Ash with ferocity and Skidis shows her usual flair for the comedic, reprising her role as the dorky and hilarious Cheryl -- the first to join the ranks of the un-dead.  Under Justin Been's high-paced direction, the cast all play their stock horror flick characters with over-the-top goodness, milking the comedy cow for all it's worth.  "It Won't Let Us Leave", "What the Fuck Was That?", "Bit Part Demon" and "Do the Necronomicon" are among the highlights.  Nathan Marshall's set is similar to their last production of "Evil Dead", but it's even more elaborate and tricked out.  Tyler Duenow's lighting design offers a variety of moods and looks and once again, great use is made of Tower Grove Abbey when shadows are thrown onto its stained glass windows after Cheryl ventures outside the cabin.  Jamie Lynn Marble contributes with wonderfully energetic, pastiche choreography that's executed well by the cast, and Sarah Castelli's make-up design adds a ghoulish touch.  Good work also from Alexandra Scibetta Quigley and her costume design and Chris Petersen's musical direction and the great sounding Evil Dead band.

(l to r) Zachary Stefaniak (Jake), Anna Skidis (Cheryl),
C.E. Fifer (Scott), Angela Bubash (Shelly),
Paul Cereghino (Ash), Eileen Engel (Linda)
and Jeff Loeffler Spirit of Professor Knowby.
Photo credit: John Lamb
Just like last time, for a little extra you can sit among the brave in the "Splatter Zone" seats.  In addition to being drenched by the end of the night, you'll get a nifty "I Survived the Splatter Zone" t-shirt to keep as a souvenir.  There's no need to be familiar with the "Evil Dead" franchise to enjoy this hilarious musical send-up that's sure to provide loads… or buckets, of bloody entertainment.  Check it out!  Tickets sell quickly.


EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL

Book/lyrics by George Reinblatt
Music by Christopher Bond, Frank Cipolla, Melissa Morris, & George Reinblatt
Directed by Justin Been
Assistant directed by Anna Skidis
Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Ave.
through November 2 | tickets: $18 - $35
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday, October 30 at 8pm

(l to r) Paul Cereghino (Ash), Brittany Kohl (Annie Knowby)
and Zachary Stefaniak (Jake).
Photo credit: John Lamb
Cast:
Paul Cereghino (Ash Williams), Eileen Engel (Linda), C.E. Fifer (Scott), Anna Skidis (Cheryl Williams), Angela Bubash (Shelly), Brittany Kohl (Annie Knowby), Michael A. Wells (Ed Getley/Moose), Zachary Stefaniak (Jake) and Jeff Loeffler (Spirit of Professor Knowby/Fake Shemp).

Creative:
Scenic design by Nathan Marshall; lighting design by Tyler Duenow; costume design by Alexandra Scibetta Quigley; choreography by Jamie Lynn Marble; make-up design by Sarah Castelli; music and vocal direction by Chris Petersen; stage manager, Justin Been.

Evil Dead Band:
Keyboard, Chris Petersen; electric guitar and banjo, Adam Rugo; percussion, Bob McMahon.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

EVITA • The Fox

"Evita" began as a rock opera released in 1976.  After lyricist Tim Rice became fascinated with Eva Perón through a radio program, he approached Andrew Lloyd Webber with the idea of a musical based on her life, and Lloyd Webber eventually took him up on it.  The success of the concept album they collaborated on led to a West End premiere in 1978, and a Broadway debut the following year that received seven Tony Awards out of ten nominations.

The musical follows Eva Duarte's iconic rise to power from a lower-middle-class outcast to the adored second wife of Argentine President, Juan Perón.  It begins, and ends, somberly with the death of Evita Perón, and the ensuing outpouring of grief.  From these opening moments, the play, through flashbacks, immediately sucks the audience into the life of this woman, who was deeply loved and revered as a saint by so many in Argentina, and seen by others as a narcissistic social climber.

Caroline Bowman is strong with an impressive vocal range in a formidable role, and particularly charming as the young Eva Duarte, who sets her sights on Buenos Aires and a tango singer named Augustin Magaldi (Christopher Johnstone).
Christopher Johnstone (Magaldi)
and Caroline Bowman (Eva).
Photo credit: Richard Termine
During "Eva And Magaldi" Eva sings of her longing to get out of her small town, make it in the big city, and stick it to the middle-classes, whom she resented for turning her away at her father's funeral -- kicked out by his other family's relatives.  Once in Buenos Aires, Eva doesn't stay on the arm of Magaldi for long, and after connecting "under" the right men, she becomes a successful radio actress, and meets an ambitious Colonel named Juan Perón (Sean MacLaughlin).  Their mutual ambition leads to marriage and his election as President, on the platform of working for the "descamisados" -- the working class citizens of Argentina.  On the opposite end of the Perón's political philosophies and serving as our cynical narrator is Che, played by a splendid Josh Young.  The spell Eva casts on the nation is lost on Che, who regards her as an egocentric opportunist working inside a corrupt political system for selfish reasons.  While Eva started foundations for the poor, she represented Argentina abroad like a walking fashion plate, as the lyrics to "Rainbow High" attest ("I'm their product, it's vital you sell me, So Machiavell me, make an Argentine Rose…").  And the people were sold, although she was never able to win the hearts of the aristocratic upper classes.

Caroline Bowman (Eva)
and Josh Young (Che).
Photo credit: Richard Termine
Even though Che remained convinced her act was all a scam, she was given the official title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation" shortly before she died from cancer at the age of 33.  Whether or not Evita's motivations were fueled by a genuine desire to raise up the poor of Argentina, or to fuel her own ambition, is craftily left up to the audience to decide.

This ambiguous, yet compelling representation of Evita's life continues to engage and excite in this production, which is based on a 2006 revival directed by Michael Grandage.  This re-imagined production of "Evita" included a song from the 1996 film ("You Must Love Me"), placed a strong emphasis on dance, and polished the whole thing to a high gloss.  While the choreography provided for the tour by Chris Bailey is incredible, for me, it muffles a level of intensity from the edgier aspects of the show, suppressing some of the storytelling.  While much of the heat is lavished on the dance numbers, it's drained from the connections between the characters.  Still, the performances are solid and Lloyd Webber's Latin, rock and Broadway flavored score full of remarkable musical themes remains just as savory.
Caroline Bowman (Eva).
Photo credit: Richard Termine
In one of the most recognizable and thrilling numbers in the show, "Don't Cry For Me Argentina", Evita pours out her love of the people who have accepted her, and they hauntingly take over her chorus by humming it back to her near the end of the song, in a musical display of mutual love.  God I love that part.  Young gives Che a rich, deep voice and threatens to overshadow when he's onstage.  MacLaughlin was a little short on chemistry with Bowman, but he holds his own in the role of Juan Perón, while Krystina Alabado delivers a beautifully poignant "Another Suitcase In Another Hall" as the young mistress of Perón's who's kicked out by Eva.  In addition to the leads, the ensemble members were strong voiced and executed the choreography stylishly.  The score soars with an excellent orchestra, and Zachary Borovay's projection design enhances the early scenes of Evita's state funeral.  Neil Austin steeps Christopher Oram's sets with a striking lighting design, with Oram also providing the costumes.

Caroline Bowman (Eva), Josh Young (Che),
Sean MacLaughlin (Perón) and the tour cast of EVITA
Photo credit: Richard Termine
This is a wonderful opportunity to see "Evita" on a grand scale.  If you've never seen it, go see it.  If you have, go see it again for a beautifully rendered, if not glossy, portrait of the life of this most interesting figure.  It's playing at the Fox until the 20th.


EVITA

Book/lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Seth Skylar-Heyn
Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Blvd.
through October 20 | tickets: $25 - $85
Performances Tuesday to Saturday 8pm, Thursday Oct. 17 at 1pm, Saturdays at 2pm, Sundays at 1pm, Sunday Oct. 13 at 6:30pm

The cast of EVITA
Photo credit: Richard Termine
Cast:
Caroline Bowman (Eva), Josh Young (Che), Sean MacLaughlin (Perón), Desi Oakley (Eva Alternate), Christopher Johnstone (Magaldi), Krystina Alabado (Mistress, Ensemble), Ryan K. Bailer (Ensemble),Nicholas Belton (Ensemble), Jessica Bishop (Ensemble), Ronald L. Brown (Ensemble), Holly Ann Butler (Ensemble), Diana DiMarzio (Ensemble), Samantha Farrow (Ensemble), Katharine Heaton (Ensemble), Tony Howell (Ensemble), Katie Huff (Ensemble), Patrick Oliver Jones (Ensemble), Chris Kotera (Ensemble), Ian Liberto (Swing, Dance Captain), Alison Mahoney (Ensemble), Robin Masella (Swing, Assistant Dance Captain), Megan Ort (Ensemble), John Riddle (Ensemble), Morgan Rose (Swing), Jeffrey C. Sousa (Ensemble) and Tug Watson (Swing).

Creative:
Tour Choreography by Chris Bailey, associate choreography by Jennie Ford, scenic & costume design by Christopher Oram,  lighting design by Neil Austin, sound design Mick Potter, wig and hair design by Richard Mawbey,  projection design by Zachary Borovay, makeup design by Jason Goldsberry, production stage manager, Bonnie Panson, stage manager, Michael Rico Cohen. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DIARY OF A MADMAN • Upstream Theater

Nikolai Gogol's 1835 short story, adapted by David Holman, chronicles Poprishchin, a civil servant working in St. Petersburg, and his downward spiral into madness through entries in his diary.  Upstream's compelling production of this first person account of one man's descent, is marvelous.

Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin (an impressive Christopher Harris), is a clerk of the ninth grade whose primary job seems to be sharpening quill pens for his boss.  He journals about his disdain for his job in the solitude of his attic apartment, with only the landlady's Finnish servant, Tuovi (Magan Wiles), for occasional company.

Christopher Harris (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin)
and Magan Wiles (Tuovi).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
After he falls in love with the daughter of his boss, the unattainable Sophia, his infrequent, inconsequential contact with her leads to obsession.  As his obsession grows, so does the awareness of his own insignificance -- a dehumanized cog lost in a sea of governmental bureaucracy.  His daily humiliations start to become rationalized with greater and greater delusions, until he imagines himself to be the king of Spain.

Harris, disheveled and in pale makeup, is completely engaging as Poprishchin.  From his imagined triumphs to his lonely despair, he demands your attention from the first moments and holds it.  Wiles is also very effective as the comical Tuovi, Sophia and a fellow inmate of the asylum.

Christopher Harris (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Philip Boehm directs with a sure hand with excellent touches from the creative team.  Michael Heil's scenic design uses a raked stage framed with iron bars and quill pens in inkwells bordering the floor.  Steve Carmichael's gloomy lighting sets the mood perfectly and Katie Donovan provides the costumes.  Joe Dreyer provides original piano music that nicely punctuates the action onstage.

Check this play out for a thrilling night of theatre.  It's playing until the 20th.  Don't miss it.


DIARY OF A MADMAN

Written by Nikolai Gogol
Adapted by David Holman
Directed by Philip Boehm
Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 North Grand Blvd.
through October 20 | tickets: $20 - $30
Performances Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm, final Sunday at 3pm

Christopher Harris (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin).
Photo credit: Peter Wochniak
Cast:
Christopher Harris* (Aksentii Ivanovich Poprishchin) and Magan Wiles (Tuovi/Sophia/Tatiana).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Michael Heil; costume design by Katie Donovan; lighting design by Steve Carmichael; props by Claudia Mink Horn; stage manager, Patrick Siler.

Musicians:
Joe Dreyer

Sunday, October 6, 2013

THE GOOD DOCTOR • New Jewish Theatre

The New Jewish Theatre transports us to 19th century Russia during the course of its season opener, "The Good Doctor".  Five actors play multiple roles across eight vignettes based on the stories of Anton Chekhov, considered to be one of the most prolific writers of short stories in history, through the comedic lens of the show's playwright, Neil Simon, whose style explores relationships, conflict and the "funny/sad" of life with his trademark one-liners and wisecracking humor.

David Wassilak, our narrator and stand-in for Chekhov himself (bearing quite a resemblance), welcomes the audience and ponders his writing.  Lamenting his assumption that his works are doomed to pale in comparison to the writings of his colleagues, the characters from his stories appear onstage and he guides us through a selection of them.  "The Sneeze" starts things off, with a low-level government worker and his wife (Aaron Orion Baker and Alina Volobuyeva) on a rare night out at the theatre, seated right behind his heavily medaled superior and his wife (Jason Grubbe and Teresa Doggett).  After an ill-aimed sneeze that splatters his boss, the clerk cannot possibly apologize enough.  Baker is very funny to watch as his hysterical paranoia about the consequences of his social blunder lead him to make a bad situation worse.

"The Sneeze"
Front: Jason Grubbe, Teresa Dogget
Back: Alina Volobuyeva and Aaron Orion Baker.
Photo credit: John Lamb
"Surgery" finds a priest (Grubbe) with a debilitating toothache in the hands of an unlicensed dentist (Baker).  Grubbe's physical comedy sells this piece as he whimpers, convulses in the dentist chair and tries to escape the dentist-to-be who's determined to finish the job.  Wassilak, while amiably setting up each piece, dazzles when he steps into "The Seduction".  Here, he demonstrates the skills of a professed ladies man who manages, with Jedi-like skills, to make the husband of the woman he desires an accomplice in his seduction, without speaking to her at all.  Volobuyeva plays the object of his longing with charm, and has a very nice turn in "The Audition", where a young aspiring actress, after traveling a long distance to Moscow, impressively reads an excerpt of "Three Sisters" for the offstage playwright -- Anton Chekhov.

"The Seduction"
Alina Volobuyeva, Aaron Orion Baker
and David Wassilak.
Photo credit: John Lamb

In one of the funniest scenarios, "A Defenseless Creature", Doggett is a relentless woman demanding payment for her husband's nervous condition from a woeful banker, who is unable to get her to realize he has nothing to do with the problem.  Doggett's screeching persistence is hilarious here as she eventually wears the banker down.  Grubbe is also quite amusing as the banker, infuriated and suffering with gout -- complete with comically inflamed toes.  Additional vignettes include "The Governess", where a soft-spoken employee's wages are mercilessly discounted, "The Drowned Man", that features an "actor" willing to fake a drowning for money, and "The Arrangement", a sentimental look back at a father's attempt to secure a "special" gift for his son's 19th birthday.

While these stories as a whole provide some laughs with a touching moment here and there, the play itself, a departure from Neil Simon's usual fare, isn't his strongest work.  Luckily, the material is greatly elevated through Bobby Miller's sharp staging and tight direction, strong contributions from the creative team and a remarkably talented ensemble.  During the course of the play, each actor gets an opportunity to shine -- and they do.  Dunsi Dai's smart scenic design features distinct playing areas with different levels, an elevated platform, and a modernist backdrop painting of blue skies that nicely balances the stage.  Maureen Berry's pools of light effectively and elegantly highlight the different areas of the space and Michele Friedman Siler outfits the cast in handsome period costumes.  In addition to directing, Miller is also responsible for the sound design, that makes a wonderfully atmospheric impression in "The Drowned Man" and "The Arrangement", in particular.

"Surgery"
Aaron Orion Baker and Jason Grubbe.
Photo credit: John Lamb
From the amusing, to the poignant, to the absurd, if there's anything that links the rather uneven stories of "The Good Doctor" together (aside from the narrator and the fact that Chekhov was a physician for a time), it's the comfort found in the inclination to chuckle at the imperfections and fragility of the human condition.  The "Doctor" will be in until the 20th.


THE GOOD DOCTOR

Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Bobby Miller
Marvin & Harlene Wool Studio, 2 Millstone Campus Drive Creve Coeur
through October 20 | tickets: $35 - $39
Performances Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm & 7:30pm

Cast:
Aaron Orion Baker*, Teresa Doggett, Jason Grubbe*, Alina Volobuyeva and David Wassilak.
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Creative:
Scenic design by Dunsi Dai; lighting design by Maureen Berry; costume design by Michele Friedman Siler; sound design by Bobby Miller; property design by Wendy Greenwood; wig styling by Christian and Christopher Sifford; stage manager, Lee Anne Mathews.

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