Story by Laurie Merrill
Photos by Travis Neely
GCU News Bureau
Writer’s block has seldom been as entertaining as it is in Ethington Theatre’s “The Good Doctor,” a delightful comedy as tender as it is laugh-out-loud funny that features a variety of over-the-top performances with a Russian flair.
Human nature’s frailties and triumphs receive equal treatment from Grand Canyon University cast members who seem charmed to be inhabiting their roles and whose sense of timing is brilliant.
"The Good Doctor," by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Neil Simon, is a series of plays based on short stories of Russian writer Anton Chekhov. It opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Ethington Theatre.
The vignettes are set in Russia and strung together by the main character, a writer (Trustin Adams) who appears on the minimalist stage in an array of personas with hats and jackets to match. He battles writer's block by composing out loud to us, the audience, whom he addresses periodically.
“It’s quite all right, you’re not disturbing me. I’d much rather talk than work,” are his first words.
“What force is it that compels me to write so incessantly, day after day, page after page, story after story? And the answer is quite simple: I have no choice. I am a writer.”
A sudden thought strikes him -- “My thoughts are consumed with this new story; see if this appeals to you” -- and thus rolls out the first vignette, “The Sneeze,” a side-splittingly funny story that reveals Russian class struggle and begins on opening night in another theatre.
“If Ivan Ilyitch Cherdyakov (Clinton Slay), a civil servant, a clerk in the Ministry of Public Parks (in charge of trees and bushes) had any passion in life at all, it was theatre,” the writer narrates.
Trouble erupts when his superior, General Mikhail Brassilhov (Cameron Cluff), the Minister of Public Parks, and his wife, (Chelsie Correll), sit in front of the civil servant and his wife (Emily Ward Burritt).
The high-volume sneeze that explodes out of Cherdyakov onto the general’s head becomes a metaphor for class suppression as well a vehicle for one of the show’s most humorous moments.
Jeremy Carr gives a glittering performance as the main character of “The Seduction,” a bon vivant and scoundrel with a nonetheless softer side.
Carr also energizes with an athletic performance as the sailor in “The Drowned Man.” Like most cast members, he embodies multiple characters.
One of the most outrageously funny vignettes in a play chock full of humor is delivered by Levi Roberts in the role of Kistunov, Correll as the woman and Adams as Pochatkin in “The Defenseless Creature.” All three have formidable comedic skills, and watching them on the stage at the same time is a feast.
Other vignettes portray a sadistic surgeon wielding an arsenal of dental weapons, two older people wondering if they have time yet for love, an actress auditioning for a role and two women who go to "war" with illustrated arguments.
You can’t mistake the setting with the cutouts of curved domes that characterize Russian architecture. The costumes faithfully reflect the turn-of-the-century period, and the lighting adds variety and luster to the set.
The show opens and ends with the writer, whose writer’s block seems to have eased.
“Writer’s block is an apt name, as it rarely stems from a lack of ideas,” Director Michael Kary, a College ofFine Arts and Production faculty member, said in the playbill. “Instead, it comes about when too many ideas vie for my attention, a sort of creative congestion, if you will …
“In my experience as a Christian, however, I’ve come to realize that it is not me who is responsible for the conjuring. God is constantly speaking to me, inspiring me through His word.”
First week: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2; 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 3.
Second week: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 and Saturday, Sept. 9; 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10
Cast, in alphabetical order:
Trustin Adams – Narrator, Kuryatin, Policeman, Voice, Pochatkin and the Boy
Stacy Arleen – Julia, the Wife
Logan Barrett – the Sexton, the Husband,
Emily Ward Burritt – Madame Cherdyakov, Army Officer
Jeremy Carr – Peter Semyonych, Sailor
Cameron Cluff – General Brassilhov, the Father
James Coblentz – Mistress, the Girl
Chelsie Correll – Madame Brassilhov, Navy Officer, a Woman
Gavin Harris – Musician
Marija Petovic – A Woman, the Girl
Levi Roberts – A Man, Kistunov
Clinton Slay – Ivan Cherdyakov, Narrator
Christine Ward – Musician
Michael Kary – Director
William Symington – Scenic Designer and Properties Designer
Claude Pensis – Lighting Designer
Nola Yergen – Costume Designer
Jalani Lee and Christina McSheffrey – Sound Designers
Kay Gray – Hair and Makeup Designer
Madison Kesterson – Dramaturg
Featured production staff:
Ashley Gennaro – Stage Manager
Cuauhtemoc Lara – Assistant Director
Kaitlyn Johnson, Mandy Thompkins – Assistant Stage Managers
Madelyn Mertes – House Manager
James Coblentz – Chaplain
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]