NEIL SIMON’S “THE GOOD DOCTOR” IS A PRESCRIPTION FOR COMIC FUN

BONNIE GOLDBERG

The playwright Neil Simon usually sets his plays in Brighton Beach or Yonkers, places from his youth. He went far a field to 19th century Russia, after visiting the short stories of a favorite writer, Anton Chekhov, for his series of comic vignettes, “The Good Doctor.”

 

Square One Theatre Company in Stratford is bringing this comic grouping of tales in the style of Chekhov to delightful life weekends until Saturday, May 26. The narrator is the thin thread who holds the stories together, popping up from time to time, pulling the plots in a meandering maze of mirth.

 

It’s clear that Anton Chekhov is the inspiration for the narrator, the writer, as he worked his way through medical school by selling his short stories to local newspapers. Neil Simon’s childhood nickname was “Doc” so the character is likely a blended combination of both men.

 

Playing the narrator, J. Kevin Smith is wonderfully droll. He is in on all the secrets and he doesn’t mind sharing. He is an innocent bystander at the opera when the evening is interrupted by a giant sneeze and the offender (Frank Smith) can’t stop apologizing to his superior, a general (Joseph Mallon), the receiver of the nasal spraying.

 

In the next vignette, a governess (Michelle Duncan) gets a lesson in trust and finances when her new employer (Lillian Garcia) tries to cheat her out of her wages. In “The Seduction,” a confirmed bachelor (J. Kevin Smith) convinces his good friend (Joseph Mallon) to be his go-between to help him seduce the man’s wife (Lillian Garcia), only to discover who really was orchestrating the lesson in love.

 

An actor (Frank Smith) tries to enlist a customer to pay three rubles for his performance as a “drowned man,” quite a feat when you realize he does not know how to swim. In “The Audition,” a young ingénue (Michelle Duncan) endures great hardships to get to the stage for a reading and then wows the director by reciting all three parts of “The Three Sisters.”

 

Completing the evening is “The Arrangement” where a father (J. Kevin Smith) initiates his son (Alex Carrasco) into the mysteries of sex by taking him to a brothel. Tom Holehan directs this comic series, which is a melding of farce and vaudeville, with a lighthearted touch.

 

For tickets ($20, seniors $19), call the Square One Theatre, 2422 Main Street, Stratford at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., plus Saturday, May 26 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

 

Stratford’s Square One Theatre and area restaurants continue their working relationship developed over the years, benefiting both the theatre and restaurant patrons during the theatre’s performance weekends.

 

Throughout the run, Stratford’s newly opened Akoya Asian Cuisine joins McCoy’s Irish Pub, Acapulco’s Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina, Blue Point Bar and Grill, Stationhouse Wine Bar & Grill and Siena Italian Trattoria offering ‘specials’ for all Square One Theatre subscribers and ticket holders.

 

AKOYA Asian Cuisine is next door at 2410 Main Street - 203-381-9366. McCOY’s IRISH PUB is across the street from the theatre at 2399 Main Street – 203.870.8688.

 

ACAPULCO’s Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina is across the street from the theatre at 2419 Main Street - 203.378.7900.

 

BLUE POINT BAR and GRILL is across the street at 2415 Main Street - 203.375.2583. STATIONHOUSE WINE BAR & GRILL is located at 2520 Main Street in the NYC-bound side of Stratford Railroad Station - 203.377.1648 and SIENA ITALIAN TRATTORIAis located at 2505 Main Street – 203.923.8400.

 

Let Neil Simon introduce you to the joys of Anton Chekhov and to the intriguing characters who populate his world.
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