By Billy Tuite —
For those stricken with a deplorable cold or flu this season, the University of Wisconsin–Stout Theatre department will have just what the doctor ordered starting Nov. 5 with their production of Neil Simon’s comedy, “The Good Doctor.”
“The Good Doctor,” which originally opened on Broadway in 1973, is a stage adaptation of short stories by Russian physician and author Anton Chekhov. The play follows a nameless writer (who represents Chekhov) as he suffers with writer’s block and narrates several of his short stories, which are brought to life on stage.
The short but content-packed scenes portray a variety of wild scenarios, including an inexperienced medical student pulling out a patient’s tooth, and a sailor offering to drown himself for money and amusement.
Paul Calenberg will be in the director’s seat once again this semester for his 13th play at Stout. Calenberg’s affection for “The Good Doctor” dates back farther than one might expect.
“It was one of the first plays I was ever in as an actor back in high school,” Calenberg said. “I’ve just always enjoyed the comedy of it because it’s so varied. Some of it is slapstick humor and some of it is more subtle.”
The short vignette structure of “The Good Doctor” will be familiar to those who saw last fall’s play, “Almost, Maine.” This structure has presented some interesting challenges, especially for the actors who are playing multiple roles.
Kyle Basom will be taking on the lead role as the nameless writer, but he does more than just serve as a conduit through each scene.
“Sometimes I’m in the background writing, and sometimes I’ll take on the persona of a character in the story and actually act that out,” Basom said. “Portraying these characters is a little tricky; I’m not supposed to be the narrator then, but I still look and sound the same.”
Meghan Olson, who is taking on three different roles in the play, faces a similar challenge, and she’s embracing it with open arms.
“Getting to play multiple female roles with so many different personality traits and quirks is a fun challenge, and it’s helping me grow a lot,” Olson said. “It’s been a fun learning experience.”
The witty and humorous writing helps make this challenge enjoyable, as the entire crew is constantly in stitches during rehearsal.
“The play is often described as ‘heartwarming and hilarious,’” Calenberg said. “I really like that description because you really feel for some of these characters with plenty of ‘aw, shucks’ moments, and then there’s lots of slap-your-knee laughter moments.”
“It also has poignant social commentary still relevant even a century after Chekhov wrote his original stories,” Basom added. “If you want to, you can come away with some meaningful commentary on the human condition. Of course, if you don’t want to bother looking for that, you can just come and have a good time.”
“The Good Doctor” will be performed in the Mabel Tainter Theater Nov. 5 through 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 and are available through the Memorial Student Center Service Center or at tickets.uwstout.edu