The current show at 2nd Story Theatre is "The Good Doctor", Neil Simon's heartwarming and hilarious tribute to Anton Chekhov. Simon, the popular Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, expertly weaves a variety of Chekhov short stories into laugh-out-loud evening of infectious humor, touching tenderness and unending fun. The show is set in Russia and Simon transformed the short stories into comedies. He wrote this show after his first wife, Joan died suddenly. One of the scenes in the show is very touching and is called "Too Late for Happiness" with John Michael Richardson and Joan Batting capturing the pathos Simon felt at this point in his life. The show was a catharsis for him and helped him continue to write his signature style shows. The title of the play refers to Chekhov who was a doctor in real life. The cast of characters includes a writer, a blustering general, a lady of the night, a wild woman with a nervous disorder, a man who earns money by "drowning", a novice dentist, and an overeager actress. "The Good Doctor" opened on Broadway's Eugene O'Neil Theatre in November 1973 with Christopher Plummer heading the cast and ran for 208 performances. The show has 10 scenes and 21 performers. Directors Ed Shea and Pat Hegnauer cast this show extremely well and obtain splendid performances from their cast.
They give their cast some clever comic bits and shtick to perform, obtaining them many laughs and much merriment. There are many twists and turns in the stories with some them having to be seen to be believed. Ed and Pat are aided in their task by Ron Cesario who provides some glamorous costumes for this show, set design by Trevor Eliet and lighting design by Ron Allen. John Michael Richardson is spellbinding in this role of Anton Chekhov. He narrates the show, keeps the storyline flowing along, reacts to all the scenes and appears in 5 of them. John Michael is onstage throughout the entire show and one of his biggest laughs comes when he mentions an alternate ending a few times. His expert performance captures the essence of Chekhov splendidly with Simon's retelling of his short stories. One of John Michael's funniest scenes is when he haggles with Bill Oakes in "The Drowned Man" by haggling at the price he must pay to witness the event. Hard working operations manager Max Ponticelli appears in this sequence as the policeman and delivers a splendid funny performance with his line delivery.
Some of the funniest segments include the comedy of the General,Vince Petronio getting sneezed on by his worker, Jonathan Jacobs in "The Sneeze". Jonathan keeps apologizing for the sneeze leading to many laughs at the class distinctions of the time period. Two slapstick scenes are "Surgery" where Nicholas Thibeault is a Sexton needing a bad tooth pulled and Andrew Iacovelli as the student dentist (the physical comedy as they struggle back and forth is hilarious) and "A Defenseless Creature" with Pam Faulkner bursting into a bank manager's office demanding payment for her husband's unjust firing because of a nervous condition. She is a whirling dervish in this sequence running rough shod over and browbeating Joe Henderson and Kevin Broccoli while hurling accusations, curses and pulling out her hair during it. Standout scenes include "The Seduction" with blond haired Jeff Church being very debonair, telling the Writer he can have any married woman he wants via patience and persistence. Jeff's antics are hysterical and Laura Sorenson as the beguiling married woman and Dillon Medina, as her unsuspecting husband are terrific, too. In "The Arrangement" John Michael tries to make a man out of his son played by Will Valles, who is only 16 years old. This is a heartwarming scene with John Michael and Will showing a nice relationship with each other. Will is terrific and shows great acting potential at a young age. So for a terrific Neil Simon comedy, be sure to catch "The Good Doctor" at 2nd Story Theatre because it is just what the doctor ordered in these trying times.