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The Good Doctor

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THE GOOD DOCTOR, TinFish Theatre. Just six months ago Headstrong Theatre revived Neil Simon's tart and tender tribute to Anton Chekhov, a dramatization of eight of his short stories. Trusting that the market isn't saturated, TinFish Theatre hews faithfully enough in its production to Simon's successful fusion of American wisecracks and Russian melancholy. Vaudevillian verve fuels the comic encounters between a slavish clerk and the boss he sneezed on, a bored writer and a sailor who "drowns" to please the public, a sexton with a toothache and the apprentice who tortures him, and a bank officer and the shrew who drives him bonkers. There's compassion in Chekhov's treatment of a worldly-wise woman who takes advantage of her governess while warning her of just such exploitation. Chekhov even depicts his teenage self and the father who wanted him to both lose his virginity and remain innocent.

Dejan Avramovich's staging neither flattens Chekhov's sentiment nor undermines Simon's one-liners. Jim Schmid plays victims well--like the frazzled banker--and mellows into a portrait of a shy, lovelorn loner. Marc Collins has sly fun as a self-proclaimed seducer who finds the tables turned on him, Jill Westerby endears as a young hopeful who performs all three sisters before their impressed creator, and Michele Lukovich shines throughout, most notably as a wife enticed by a man she's never seen. The one ironclad disappointment is Avramovich, whose glum Chekhov narrates with a plodding sameness that drains all charm from the role. --Lawrence Bommer

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