recommended *** The Jedlicka Performing Arts Center is opening its season with Neil Simon’s comedy “The Good Doctor.” At the beginning of the play, we are introduced to Anton Chekov (Matthew Dunn) who speaks of writers blocks and laments that people find his stories “funny and charming” (adjectives that often come to mind in regards to Neil Simon). Chekov is composing a number of short stories, three of which he appears in himself: in one he interviews an actress for one of his plays, in another his father takes him to a brothel for his sixteenth birthday, and in which Chekov goes walking to fight writer’s block and a strange man offers to commit suicide in front of him in exchange for a couple of Kopeks. As to the others, they are very charming, but we are never really sure if they are meant to be funny or sad (Chekov famously insisted to its director’s disbelief that “The Cherry Orchard” was a comedy). There is one scene, however, that is pure melancholy: an elderly couple meets every day on a bench, and their resistance to courting each other slowly breaks down.The narrative of the scene is told completely through the songs they sing as they sit on the bench each day and the scene’s tone, especially the music, hangs over and colors the rest of the play’s narratives
Under the direction of Steven Calzaretta and Max Cervantes, an ensemble of six actors and actresses play numerous characters. Each one switches from character to character very easily, and thanks to very good make-up and costume changes (Lindsay Loretta Prerost), it is sometimes impossible to tell which actor is playing which character. Fortunately, Matthew Dunn as Chekov is a near constant presence and plays him as an earnest, affable man, somewhat young, and someone we are happy to spend two hours with. Natalie Cooney and Ross Magyar are also very imposing, even in their versatility, and help link these stories together as the imagination of one unassuming man.
The set (Michael Nedza), with the exception of the reader’s digests books, is convincing as every 19th Russian space that it needs to be from Chekov’s house to the docks near a river. Because this is larger than the smaller ones you often find in the city, Michael A. Knott is able do a lot of meaningful things with lightning. The lighting of the scene about the elderly couple was particularly subtle and affecting. Ultimately, the lightning ensures that the stories are melancholy, ambiguous, and sad while remaining “funny and charming. The Good Doctor is playing at Jedlicka Performing Arts Center through September 27th with performances
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
The theater located at 3801 S. Central Avenue in Cicero. Regular tickets are 17 dollars and Senior tickets are 5 dollars. They are available at www.jpacthetare.com or by calling 708-656-1800. Lots of free parking to see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click at “The Good Doctor”