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Theater review: 'The Doctor Despite Himself' at Electric Lodge

October 9, 2009 |  8:00 pm

The Doctor Despite Himself photo 6 Post-commedia antics are the prescribed treatment in “The Doctor Despite Himself” at Electric Lodge. Ipanema Theater Troupe’s wacky take on Molière’s 1666 “Le Médecin malgré lui” is awash in slapstick aplomb.

That is obvious from the pre-show intrusion by woodcutter Sganarelle (Charles Fathy) and bickering Martine (Clara Bellar), his shrewish wife, as we take our seats.

Their Punch-and-Judy combat leads to Martine’s revenge — giving her thick-headed spouse his comeuppance by passing him off as a learned physician. The plan backfires, to put it mildly.

In director Guru Monteiro’s hands, “Doctor” gambols about the black-box setting as though it’s a tony Second City workout. The translation by Bellar and the cast is slight but serviceable, and designer Swinda Reichelt’s costumes must be seen to be believed. Constructed of foam-core and stretchy elements, the outfits merge circus whimsy with a structural extravagance that suggests pet chew toys come to life.

Fathy’s deadpan drollery and Bellar’s amiable hectoring are in the classic style, albeit overextended. Raquel Brussolo gets ample mileage from the statuesque figure and blond locks of her tarty nursemaid to ingenue Lucinde (also Bellar), whose muteness provides Sganarelle’s big test.

She and inamorato Leandre (Brad Schmidt) wear campy color-coordinated cat suits, and Steven Houska’s various authority figures go from loopy to loopier in farcical form and function.

It is not really satirical, apart from a running list of treatments that directly reflects the current health care debate. But the company’s main objective is unassuming silliness. As such, “Doctor” is enjoyable, even if Molière’s wit plays second fiddle to the wardrobe.

— David C. Nichols

 “The Doctor Despite Himself,” Electric Lodge Performance Space, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 8. $20. (310) 823-0710. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

Above: (Left to right) Steven Houska, Charles Fathy and Clara Bellar. Photo credit: Angelo Loukas