Ann Arbor Observer cover
Tattoos for Avalon Housing
Ann Arbor Weather:
Saturday October 19, 2019
Follow us: facebook twitter RSS feed
The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor

Chekhov on Prozac

by Sonia Kovacs

From the December, 2003 issue

There may be some people around who wouldn't like The Good Doctor at the Purple Rose, but I don't know who they would be. If you find Chekhov depressing, this is Chekhov on Prozac. If you like Chekhov, you'll enjoy seeing his earlier, more primitive roots.

Nominally by Neil Simon, The Good Doctor is a dramatization of several of Anton Chekhov's most beloved short stories, written when Chekhov was a medical student in Moscow in the 1880s. Simon's contribution is restrained to the point of being almost undetectable, although copyright laws allow him to take full credit on the playbill. (Chekhov himself, surprisingly, isn't even mentioned anywhere in the program, although no one is really trying to hide his part in it. It's in the press releases.) Simon transposed the stories to the stage with a minimum of fuss, adding only a narrator — a "writer," presumably Chekhov — who introduces and comments on some of the sketches, and a music-hall-type piano player who performs the same function musically.

I could find little explanation of why Simon was moved to write The Good Doctor, which apparently wasn't particularly successful in its 1973 debut. With Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, and several other stage successes behind him, he was well into his career as an original playwright, and that's what he continued to be. Chekhov and Simon seem on the face of it a bit of an odd couple. Some years after writing these jolly stories, Chekhov would transform the nature of modern playwriting from neatly wrapped tragic or comic packages into unresolved shades-of-gray landscapes of character exploration. Simon to some extent came along a half century later and steered American theater back into more accessible territory.

But however and whyever it came to be written, it's an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. The nine skits are mostly broad comedy, but underlying each of them is at least a twang of the other

...continued below...

Chekhov, the one who mixes the funny and the pathetic and won't tell you which is which. Staged simply, in the Chekhovian era (hard to see how it could have been placed in a more modern setting, with all its mistresses and governesses), the characters are universal, even if their predicaments are as quaint as their corsets and spats. The cast is composed of the usual Purple Rose suspects, with the addition of a new intern, Molly Thomas, who completely holds her own with the otherwise all-Equity cast.

The Good Doctor continues its run at Purple Rose through Saturday, December 20.     (end of article)

[Originally published in December, 2003.]


Bookmark and Share
Print Comment E-mail

You might also like:

Through the Portals
Creation to evolution and extinction at the U-M Museum of Natural History
Cynthia Furlong Reynolds
Lawsuit Settled
"We're really happy with where they're going," says AARP Foundation attorney Dara Smith.
Jan Schlain
Hola Seoul Arrives
Mexican fusion on North U
Sabine Bickford
Nightspots: Canterbury House
Lisa Robert's Busy Summer
Rock Paper Scissors arrives in Saline
Billie Ochberg
Bars And Grills in Chelsea
Senior Housing - Independent Living
For Encore, Less Is More
A record shop takes a smaller spot
Sabine Bickford
Roll Your Own
Wild Bill's Tobacco comes to Saline
Billie Ochberg
Snuff Stories from East Quad
A lurid U-M case tested free speech when the Internet was young.
Greg Stejskal
One of the finest university art museums in the country, UMMA holds collections representing 150 yea
Vicki's Wash and Wear Haircuts