By Kimberly Ortiz
Audiences found themselves in hysterics at the tale of a not-so-real doctor helping two lovers find happiness in A Doctor in Spite of Himself, staged Oct. 29 through Nov. 1.
Molière would probably be rolling over in his grave as Steven Epp and Christopher Bayes’ adaptation sent the comedy of manners into farcical chaos. Directed by guest Carter Gill, with help from musical director Tyler Cerario and choreographer Nicole Sheehan (junior musical theater major), the production left the audience laughing and occasionally questioning what was going on and what was going to happen next.
Scattered with pop culture references and seemingly random musical numbers, the play follows the journey of Sganarelle, played by John Beirne (senior theater performance major), a drunken, lazy lumberjack who is mistaken for a doctor by two comedic servants played by Mark De la Rosa (junior theater performance major) and Justin Giachetti (sophomore theater performance major). The play portrays humor and the ultimate pursuit of love for one another. Beirne’s hilarious performance not only kept the show flowing, but also brought the best out of the other actors, several of whom were making their Rider stage debut.
The play opens with an old man, played by Mark Swift (senior theater performance major), introducing the story. A puppet house and puppets representing the main characters immediately brought the comedic elements to life. Thus begins the intense arguing of Sganarelle’s wife, Martine, played by Sheehan, and Sganarelle, who claims that he has no time or money to provide for her or their children. Through vulgar language and several references to today’s society, the show produced laughs that were sure to make it a favorite.
After Sganarelle meets the two servants, Lucas and Valere, who beat Sganarelle to make him believe that he is in fact a real doctor, Sganarelle is introduced to Geronte, the father of Lucinde, also played by Swift, a whimsical man who does not seem able to find his place. Sganarelle also meets Jacqueline, portrayed by Allie Patton (junior musical theater major), Geronte’s nurse. She is also Lucas’ wife, a beautiful woman who is later seduced by Sganarelle. After several hilarious musical puns, including hits such as ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” the scene ultimately introduces the confused and lovesick daughter of Geronte, Lucinde, played by Mary Foster (freshman theater performance major). This is who Sganarelle is meant to treat after her father fears she has gone mute. Foster’s incredible first performance as a Rider freshman was one to remember.
With the look of a typical punk-rocker, Lucinde is mute and refuses to speak until her father grants her permission to marry the man she loves, Leandre, played by Matt Caccamo (sophomore musical theater major). None of the other characters, not even an angel with a melodic voice played by Kelly Prendergast (freshman musical theatre major), can make Geronte change his mind and allow Lucinde to marry Leandre.
Ultimately, this is where Sganarelle devises his plan. Through major scene and personality changes, even small hints to the audience and a joke at the director of the play (Carter Gill), he is finally able to help Leandre convince Geronte that his daughter is the one. Foster and Caccamo’s performances inspire belief that despite a bump in the road, true love will prevail no matter what.
The play ends with Leandre and Lucinde being married by Sganarelle. Everyone is happy once again, including Sganarelle when he is reunited with his wife, also portrayed by Prendergast, allowing their own marriage to be saved. Additionally, Jacqueline and Lucas make up, allowing the remaining characters to become nothing but happy for each other.
The show worked well and flowed easily Friday night. With the help of the band, including sophomore communication studies major Isabella Azar on piano, sophomore musical theater major Abi McCoy on clarinet, and junior popular music and culture major Eddie Brandt on percussion, the performances that each character gave were brought to life even more when they were interacting with these talented musicians. Even the players became characters, from catching props to throwing their hands in the air after a specific scene, which helped the music become more of the story, not just a performance.
With intricate scenes, stunning choreography and outstanding actors, the show was wonderfully put together. A Doctor in Spite of Himself is a story of laughter, love, and the ultimate pursuit of helping others and fighting for what is right.
Printed in the 11/5/14 edition.