Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Simon based The Good Doctor on several short stories by Anton Chekhov, who was a physician by profession, hence the title. The play begins with a Russian writer who speaks about his compulsion to write and write. He gets an idea for a story, bolts off to his desk to write it down, and off we go on a journey through ten very different comical short stories as the writer's words come to life before our eyes.
GCU's cast is impeccable. I've always been impressed with the work I've seen presented here and this ensemble is simply superb under Michael Kary's spotless direction. Trustin Adams plays the writer with a clear, sweet connection to the audience as he narrates the stories and speaks to us about his writing obsession; he also appears as several characters throughout the play where he exhibits moments of physical comedy with ease. In "Surgery," he hilariously portrays an untrained dentist who attempts to perform surgery on a very nervous patient, and in "The Arrangement" he is simply adorable, nervous and shy as the young boy whose father, played perfectly by Cameron Cluff, attempts to take him to a brothel on his birthday to usher him into manhood.
In "The Sneeze," Clinton Slay, with an expert heightened sense of madness, plays the poor man who sneezes on his boss when he sits behind him at the theatre and spends countless waking moments and repeated attempts trying to find a way to apologize and seek forgiveness from him. James Coblentz is excellent as the commanding and sinister Mistress in "The Governess," who cruelly rips off her employee Julia in this lesson about trustworthiness. Stacy Arleen's downtrodden looks and meek demeanor touchingly project the young woman who is unable to stand up for herself. Arleen also plays the object of desire in "The Seduction" with a pure sense of wonder and amusement, while Jeremy Carr is a gem as her understated and coy seducer who finds he may not be as great a seducer as he thought he was. Carr and Slay are also a winning comical duo as a man willing to pay another man to watch him drown himself in "The Drowned Man."
Levi Roberts and Marija Petovic play two elderly individuals who don't know if it's "Too Late For Happiness" with expertly stated vocal inflections and perfect body language that make you believe they are both in their 80s. Petovic also is a wonder as a girl from Odessa who travels far in "Audition." Her beautiful delivery of a serious scene from Chekhov's Three Sisters is a major highlight. In "A Quiet Duel," Emily Ward Burritt and Chelsie Correll hilariously play two dueling individuals who use their imaginations and artistic abilities to get the best of each other. Correll is also a hoot in "A Defenseless Creature," as a woman who is anything but that. The piece also features Roberts, and both actors exhibit a good command of slapstick in the over the top hilarity of this story.
The creative elements are superb and evoke imagery and characters from Chekhov's late 1800s Russia. William H. Symington's sleek and elegant set design along with Claude Pensis' lighting create some beautiful and vivid scene images. Nola Yergen's costumes, which are rich and detailed, and Kay Gray's hair and makeup easily transform the cast into the various parts they play.
The Good Doctor at GCU is filled with beautiful broadly comic performances along with a few incredibly touching moments that give the talented ensemble many opportunities to show their versatility. While there isn't a big message to Simon's piece, with beautiful creative elements, excellent direction, and a superb cast, GCU's production amounts to a vibrant, funny and highly entertaining comedy.
GCU's College of Fine Arts and Production's The Good Doctor runs at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre through September 10th, 2017. The theatre is located at 3300 W. Camelback Road in Phoenix AZ, and ticket and performance information for this show and their upcoming productions can be found at www.gcu.edu/Upcoming-Events/The-Arts.php or by calling 602-639-8880.
Written by Neil Simon