The Doctor in Spite of Himself and Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Doctor in Spite of Himself and Sganarelle, or the Imaginary Cuckold

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The Doctor In Spite of Himself and Sganarelle, or The Imaginary Cuckold, Stage Two Theatre Company, at Estonian House, Deerfield. For this fifth annual homage to Moliere, Timothy Mooney has adapted two works into "American English" and takes on the title roles, which the French writer himself played. Mooney's witty wordplay and richly rolling rhythms do capture the playwright's zest and the play's confused circumstances. And Mooney is mostly up to the task of performing, though he fares better as the lazy woodcutter turned lecherous doctor than as the "cuckolded" husband.

In Sganarelle, or The Imaginary Cuckold, Mooney is amusing but too caught up in the words. He makes the classic monologue in which Sganarelle fights his own cowardice a funny rant but neglects the opportunity for physical comedy. This staging is also hindered by director J.A. Benedict's aimless blocking and by performances so stock as to be uninteresting. The exceptions are the versatile Lisa Beacom's turns as maid, manservant, and relative (though giving voice to her bearded mug shot in a fourth role goes too far) and P.J. Jenkinson's energetic performance as Sganarelle's wife.

In The Doctor in Spite of Himself, Mooney and Beacom have more scenes together, and their rapport gives the show a sense of fun. Plus director Anna Bahow sets the right comic pace. Still, the laughs are few. One obstacle is the decision to downplay the woodcutter's attack on his scolding wife--the beating justifies the plot. Having Mooney and Beacom spar verbally, only threatening violence, doesn't explain her desperate wish for revenge, setting him up for a thrashing (also sanitized).

These plays may be newly adapted, but they haven't been freshly staged. Both directors rely on terribly familiar stage business, such as a lover sighing over a flower or men trying on each other's hats. Bahow's vaudeville take on the play is obvious and sometimes random (big deal, Mooney juggles three bags of money). Occasionally the action even contradicts the script. Audiences anticipating a charged evening of Moliere comedy will be disappointed.

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