Oakland Mills offers charming `Doctor'


December 07, 2007|By Alexis Monroe | Alexis Monroe,Special to the Sun

The Good Doctor is not a comedy of pratfalls, but rather of the pain and injustice of life epitomized by abscessed teeth, failed seduction and compensated suicide. At least, such was Oakland Mills High School's perspective in its charming production of the Neil Simon play.

Set in 19th-century Russia in a Chekhovian style, The Good Doctor was fashioned as a series of vignettes conducted by Narrator. Although unrelated in themselves, the scenes span the larger theme of the misfortunes of life, each addressing specific injustice in its own way.

For example, "The Governess" questions the deference of members of the working class to their superiors, while "A Defenseless Creature" is a somewhat misogynistic view of women's accepted role in society.

Because it is neither purely comedic nor entirely didactic, The Good Doctor is a show of delicate balance.

Nevertheless, the cast at Oakland Mills proved to have a clear understanding of its task. The small ensembles worked well among themselves and subtly responded to the reactions of the audience.

J.C. Abarcar filled the role of Narrator perfectly, integrating into and removing himself from the onstage action to draw attention to nuances. Another striking performance came from Melissa Valdivia as an idealistic girl in "The Audition."

Although Valdivia appeared to be solely comic at the beginning of the scene, she revealed many layers in what could have been a two-dimensional character. Valdivia was required to read an excerpt from Chekhov's The Three Sisters, and the transition from her comic character to each of Chekhov's was effortless and captivating.

To unify nearly a dozen sketches, the characters were dressed in black with an accent of red, the exception being Narrator, whose costume further established him as a separate raconteur.

Oakland Mills' mirthful production of The Good Doctor provided a window into the alternate ending of life: No matter how tragic the situation, one could always find comedy - or at least inherit 5 million rubles.

Alexis Monroe, a student at Glenelg Country School, reviewed "The Good Doctor" for the Cappies of Baltimore, a program in which students review high school productions under the direction of their teachers and vote on awards for outstanding performances.

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