Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Clare Moss
Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art (CADA)
CADA Theatre, Fyshwick to December 2
Review by Len Power 30 November 2016
The Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art (CADA) provides professional actor training with nationally recognised Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas under the Australian Qualifications Framework. As their final show for the year, three graduating students from the Advanced Diploma of Performance program appeared alongside continuing students from the Program to present Neil Simon’s 1973 play, ‘The Good Doctor’.
The play is a series of short plays based on works by Russia’s Anton Chekhov and linked by a writer, possibly Chekhov himself, as narrator. Neil Simon’s characteristic humour laces all of the plays and they are all ruefully funny. The CADA company performed seven of the ten short plays.
Director, Clare Moss, has produced a lively and thoughtful production using minimal set and props. It moves at a good pace and the depth of work on characterizations with the actors is noteworthy.
The three graduating students, Izaac Beach, Imogene Irvine and Liam McDaniel, all gave disciplined and technically strong performances. Izaac Beach was especially funny as a worry wart subordinate who accidentally sneezed on his superior and couldn’t forget about it. Later in the show he was delightful as a reticent young man being taken by his impatient father to a prostitute to lose his innocence. His endearing character and sense of timing in this sequence was excellent.
Imogene Irvine gave a nicely controlled, quiet performance of a wife targeted by a seducer and appearing to succumb until she unexpectedly turns the tables on him. Later, she was particularly impressive as a desperate actress at an audition, first gushing all over the writer but then giving a surprisingly strong reading.
Liam McDaniel played the sneezed upon General with nicely pompous authority and demonstrated great skill in the physical comedy of an apprentice dentist whose excessive zeal terrorizes a patient.
There was good work from the supporting students, too. In particular, Kathleen Masters gave a warm, controlled performance as a Governess being taught a cruel lesson and Haydn Splitt demonstrated a strong natural flair for comedy as the husband unwittingly helping the man intent on seducing his wife and, later, as the increasingly irritated father taking his son to his ‘life lesson’. Also impressive was Damon Baudin as the writer, performing the narrations with great feeling and comic sensibility.
Everyone else in the cast had nicely memorable moments and gave good performances.
‘The Good Doctor’ isn’t as well-known as the more famous Neil Simon plays like ‘the Odd Couple’ but it is very funny in a quiet way and takes skilful acting to make it work. The CADA students and their director did a fine job, making this a very entertaining evening at the theatre.
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