Simon-Chekhov combine plays at SM Northwest
Keli Rodgers said she was looking for a "simple" play for the Shawnee Mission Northwest Spring production. She chose "The Good Doctor." The play was written by Neil Simon, based on the short stories of Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov as a collection of 10 sketches with a cast of 26 characters, who are each on stage less than 10 minutes.
"[The Good Doctor] was simple to rehearse and build the set, which is good because my kids are stretched thinly in the spring," Rodgers said. "But I've done this play before and the audience died laughing. If it's your kind of humor, you think it's really funny."
Rodgers' students will perform "The Good Doctor" as the spring play at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the school auditorium. Because of the large number of parts, Rodgers said the play also provided opportunities for casting.
"The more students I can get on stage, the better they get at it," Rodgers said. "I like the fact that the show is episodic, because the whole cast doesn't have to come to every rehearsal."
The show consists of 10 short sketches, each with only a few characters. A narrator introduces each story and sometimes participates, but he is the only recurring character. Scenes range from situation comedy to light drama to slapstick. Senior Ashley O. Smith plays an old woman in the sketch "Too Late For Happiness" and is an assistant to the technical director. She said the show had a mixture of types of comedy.
"The comedy comes in the realism," she said. "Some scenes are funny because of the realism and some because they are ridiculous."
Ashley had studied Simon's plays before and said this one was a lot different because he was writing in the style of Chekov. She said it was also different because of the vignette style concept.
"In most shows, there's more of a story," Ashley said. "We're telling a story in six minutes instead of two hours."
The first sketch is a comedy called the Sneeze. In it, a young civil servant sneezes on an administrator in public and then attempts to apologize. Another sketch follows the exploits of an infamous scoundrel who uses his vast charm to seduce the wives of his friends. Rodgers said the play is a good mixture of poignant moments and Chekovian humor.
"You need very good actors for this play because the acting is very subtle," Rodgers said. "What is funny are the characters' feelings about their situation. The situations themselves aren't funny."