By Donna Lenz Wright/TheWeek
(Published March. 7, 2007, 2:08 p.m.)
The Good Doctor,' of course, is not a play at all," wrote Neil Simon in 1977. "There are sketches, vaudeville scenes if you will, written with my non-consenting collaborator, Anton Chekhov ... the young man who wrote humorous articles for the newspapers to pay his way through medical school.
"It was a pastiche for me, an enjoyable interlude before getting on to bigger things. It was, to digress for a moment, a joyous experience for me."
Simon is one of the world's most successful and respected playwrights, which is one of the reasons "The Good Doctor" was selected by the Lakeland Players for their upcoming show.
It is placed in Russia but its content is universal-and has nothing to do with a doctor. Rather, it's a comedic combination of five-to-10-minute hysterical vignettes dedicated to the simple yet strange stories of the human experience, said Mary Hubbard Nugent, director.
"We have a rather small cast so we have multiple people doing multiple roles," Nugent said. "What's fun is to see them transition from one part to another. The narrator is the only constant role as he weaves the show along. Sometimes he becomes involved and sometimes he's a member of the audience.
The vignettes range from tales of an inexperienced dental assistant, to a con artist and to an audition and more.
"'The Sneeze' is about a man who takes his wife to the theater and ends up sitting behind the man's boss," Nugent began, laughing at the thought of the vignette. "In the middle of the show he accidentally sneezes on him and builds on it in his end to where he ends up thinking his career is ended. He tries to apologize and makes it worse-it just gets worse and worse.
"'The Drowning Man' is about a man who's walking along a wharf and a sailor comes and offers to drown for him. At first the person passing by is kind of taken aback; then he gets into the feel of it and wants to see it: This is another fun one.
"'The Quiet War' is Joan and Steve Hay playing an older couple who go to the park every day and argue about something. This day it's about the perfect meal, from appetizer to dessert, as they bicker back and forth."
"It's the type of marriage held together by conflict," said Steve Hay of this vignette. "We take turns picking subjects we're going to fight over for the day. We keep score as we go and see who wins."
Being a married couple playing a married couple is something the Hays have experience in and enjoy.
"It's absolutely relatable," Steve said. "Not that we fight all the time, but of course any married couples fight sometimes. You have your ways of picking on the other person so we use those and it's a lot of fun for us."
"Anyone who's been married for any length of time will see themselves up there in these silly arguments," Joan concurred.
The Hays actually have two vignettes where they play a couple, but the second one, "Happiness," is a bit more serious.
"These two old people who see each other in the park, each has had a life before and they look at each other like, 'Dare we take a chance? Are we too old for happiness? Is it worth the pain and the joy to try again?'"
The two soliloquize in song their insecurities, hopes and fears.
"We draw from the experience that we have as a couple, plus I think we're a lot more comfortable with each other for the more poignant scenes," Joan said.
"It's fun to be somebody else-to have somebody else's words in your mouth and play around with it and see into two other people's hearts and heads."
"The Seduction" features Ruth Tozer as the wife.
"This is a woman who has a somewhat satisfying marriage with her husband and she is being seduced by a man who seduces a lot of married women," Tozer says. "She is torn by the fact that this other man is really wooing her.
"A great part of this story is the comedic twist at the end," she teased.
The universality of Neil Simon's work and the simplicity of the set and crew promises to make for a great night of theater.
"Lakeland Players do a variety of shows. This one is an adult comedy; we just finished a musical and next is a children's show, 'Beauty and the Beast,'" Nugent said.
"By having a black box set-meaning very little by the way of props and things-(the audience) ends up focusing more on what's going on, plus they don't have to wait through long set changes."
"The Good Doctor" runs March 10, 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and March 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. at the Walworth County Performing Arts Center, 5 W. Walworth St, Elkhorn. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. For more information and tickets, call 723-3013.