In the spirit of The Three Stooges, with a nodding praise to the puppeteers of Punch and Judy fame, giving a salute to slapstick and a validity to vaudeville, Moliere’s “A Doctor in Spite of Himself” escalates physical comedy and silliness to new heights of humor.
New Haven’s Yale Repertory Theatre will be paying tribute to this unique comedic genre until Saturday, December 17 in this new adaptation by Christopher Bayes, who also serves as director, and Steven Epp, who stars as the witless woodcutter Sganarelle.
A domestic squabble between Sganarelle and his nagging wife Martine (Justine Williams) results in her exacting a form of revenge on her hapless mate. When two men (Liam Craig and Jacob Ming Trent) happen by in search of a doctor of some renown to cure their master’s daughter who has gone mute, Martine delights in steering them to her husband who is chopping wood in the forest.
Before you can say “take two pills and call me in the morning,” Sganarelle has donned a white coat and stethoscope and is ready to perform miraculous deeds. With appropriate credit to Hippocrates, Aristotle, Abba, Julie Andrews and Jeannies in a bottle, he manages to satirize the medical profession while decidedly being a curative power for the speechless Lucinde (Renata Friedman), who refuses to speak as long as her doting papa (Allen Gilmore) wants to control who she marries.
The independent minded Lucinde has her heart set on the chivalrous Leandre (Chivas Michael) and Sganarelle, in his bumbling ways, inadvertently guarantees the young lovers their goal of wedlock. The servant Jacqueline (Julie Briskman) summarizes the situation with compellingly succinct four letter words. The band of two, Greg C. Powers and Robertson Witmer, utilize a variety of instruments, trombone, tuba, ukulele, accordion, clarinet and drums, to perform sound effects and the original music composed by Aaron Halva.
For tickets ($20-88), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at the corner of York at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday at 2 p.m.
If a good doctor can put you in stitches, than a bad doctor can put you in stitches too, of laughter, and he doesn’t necessarily need a rubber chicken to do so.