A Doctor in Spite of Himself --Great Fun
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
BOB: Moliere would have laughed his socks off at the Yale Rep’s production of his comic interlude, A Doctor in Spite of Himself.
KAREN: Certainly the audience was having a great time. We think this was performed and staged exactly the way Moliere envisioned this work, which was one of his earlier plays.
BOB: The play tells the story of Sganarelle, a woodsman, whose wife, in an attempt to play a joke on him, passes him off as a great doctor who denies his abilities. So he is forced to go to the home of a nobleman whose daughter is mute because the nobleman will not allow her to marry the man she loves. To Sganarelle's amazement, he gets her to speak -- and gets her father to allow the marriage -- and thus, is considered a great physician.
KAREN: Sganarelle appeared in many other Moliere plays -- usually as a buffoon or egotistical blunderer. The plot here isn’t as important as the comic antics and production of the work. I found it a combination of comic strip, burlesque and commedia del'arte -- a mixture that does not always please me.
BOB: For those who enjoy this style of physical comedy, A Doctor in Spite of Himself is hilarious. The play was directed of Christopher Bays, who along with Steven Epp adapted it. In addition to the grotesquely costumed comic figures, Bays makes clever use of puppets -- Renata Friedman, the puppeteer, adds another dimension to the fun with the tricks. Also, a two man multi-instrument band adds appropriate sound effects.
KAREN: While this is not my favorite style of theater, I admire the way this production was put together. The vision was consistent and the actors were whole-heartedly into their roles.
BOB: Steven Epp plays the feckless Sganarelle. He is a master of comic timing. He is matched by his huge-bosomed wife, played by Justine Wilson, who gets off one of the best lines of the night. The other cast members keep up the frantic pace.
KAREN: If you like broad, physical comedy and silliness, this production will delight you. It is at the Yale Rep through Dec. 17
BOB: As the program notes, this play never ranked as one of Moliere's masterpieces, but it provided him with opportunities for scattershot jabs at everyone from Aristotle to Hippocrates to provincial folk and dysfunctional couples. We'll bet that most audiences still enjoy that.
This review appeared on WNHU 88.7FM and www.wnhu.net from Dec. 6 to 16.