Mad George

October 15, 1993

British playwright Alan Bennett's brilliant "The Madness of King George III," at the Mechanic Theatre, provides food for thought in a town where medical research is the major local industry.

The king is introduced as a sympathetic character who undergoes personality change. The play rests on a modern diagnosis of a hereditary metabolic disorder called porphyria. George is tortured and bullied on stage by the finest medical minds of the 18th century. Ignorant cruelty in the name of healing is part of what this play is about.

Each playgoer must decide whether the playwright is allegorically condemning modern medicine. But it wouldn't hurt for any profession to conduct itself with a view to what its successors two centuries hence will think about its works.

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