Neil Simon has written a lot of very funny plays; "The Good Doctor," currently getting a sold-out run courtesy of the Company Theatre, is more diverting than hilarious.
(Jared & Benji - Cletus pulls a tooth!)
The piece, a string of short scenes that play out as a writer (Jared Stephens, who also directed) cooks them up, is basically Simon's take on Chekhov. Stephens has transplanted half of the stories from Chekhov's Russia to England and the United States. The pieces work in the altered settings, though some of the text could probably bear a little more Americanizing: There's a reference to a wealthy prince commissioning a portrait of a great American beauty, for example, which doesn't quite work, and many of the Russian names have been retained.
Stephens and his cast do a pretty good job with the material. "The Sneeze," in which a low-level public servant (Damian Gillen) accidentally sneezes on his superior (Benji Regan) at the theater, is particularly well-done; Gillen does a terrific job of portraying a man who blows a minor incident completely out of proportion, and the recreation of the scene is really funny. (Side note: The lighting in the theater scene in nicely done.) Another high point is "The Seduction," in which a cad (Stephens) shares his technique for seducing married women. The man uses unwitting husbands to plant ideas in the women's heads; Heather Kelley plays his latest prey, and vividly captures her character's gradual softening toward him. Regan is strong, too, as the clueless husband.
(Jared & Benji from The Quiet War)
The evening's final scene, a debate between two old coots (Stephens and Regan) about the merits of various lunch options, is a lot of fun, too.
"The Good Doctor" plays through Saturday (Aug. 7) at Little Italy Restaurant;