Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: ‘The Good Doctor’ at Washington Stage Guild

The rarely-produced 'The Good Doctor,' currently at Washington Stage Guild, finds Neil Simon channeling Chekhov.

The Good Doctor: Washington Stage Guild -- Photo: DJ Corey Photography
The Good Doctor: Washington Stage Guild — Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Nearly 50 years ago, Neil Simon was at a peak in his storied career as a playwright and screenwriter.

After his breakthrough play The Odd Couple, as well as subsequent hit musicals Sweet Charity and Promises, Promises, and big-screen successes such as The Out-of-Towners and The Heartbreak Kid, Simon decided to shake things up by developing an original “comedy with music” loosely based on a hand-picked selection of short stories from the Russian literary giant Anton Chekhov. (Simon collaborated with composer Peter Link on the Tony-nominated original score.)

The Good Doctor, as New York Times critic Clive Barnes put it in his review of the original 1973 production, is “an entertainment with jokes and characters suggested by Chekhov, music suggested by Russia, and a performance by Christopher Plummer suggested by genius.”

Plummer played the lead character, the Writer/Narrator, relating 10 short stories or anecdotes — ranging from a sad sack’s mortifying sneezing incident with his boss, to an encounter with an overzealous dental student, to a fledgling actress’s audition for all Three Sisters, to a master seducer of married women — “all of them Chekovian,” Barnes wrote, “and all of them spelled out in Brooklynese.”

The Good Doctor: Washington Stage Guild -- Photo: DJ Corey Photography
The Good Doctor: Washington Stage Guild — Photo: DJ Corey Photography

Those curious to see how the show holds up decades later are in luck, as the Washington Stage Guild has kicked off its 37th season with a new production.

The Good Doctor and its blending of Russian satire and Simon’s distinct ear for language and mastery of comic dialogue is great fun,” says WSG Artistic Director Bill Largess. “Along with bringing together a sterling company — some long-familiar to Stage Guild audiences and some new to us — we are taking special pleasure in returning to Chekhov, the author of our inaugural production in 1986, Uncle Vanya.”

Stage Guild newcomer Cameron McNary leads the cast as the Writer/Narrator, while another actor making her debut, Arika Thames, joins founding company member Lynn Steinmetz, company veteran Morgan Duncan, and returning actor Scott Harrison to take on multiple characters. Laura Giannarelli, another Stage Guild founding member, directs.

Playing through Oct. 23 at The Undercroft Theatre in Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Tickets are $50 to $60, with discounts for students and seniors. Visit or call 202-900-8788.

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