A DOCTOR IN SPITE OF HIMSELF
MONDAY, MAY 14, 2018 AT 7:30 PM
Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher St.)
Adapted by Christopher Bayes and Steven Epp
Directed by Christopher Bayes
Featuring Emily DeForest, Austin Durant, Steven Epp, Pornchanok Kanchanabanca, Gabriel Levey, Orlando Pabotoy, Don Darryl Rivera, Justine Williams, Liz Wisan, and Emily Young
What’s a girl to do, to avoid her unwanted wedding? Pretend she’s been struck mute, of course. And with the help of a dissolute, drunken woodcutter posing as her doctor, trick her rich old fool of a father. Masters of commedia Christopher Bayes and Steven Epp have teamed up to give uproarious new life to Molière’s classic comedy, with “their brilliant, new-vaudeville style,” making it “both raunchier and more unhinged,” (New York Times). It’s Punch and Judy come to life, in this pitch-perfect presentation, punctuated with live music.
The OBIE Award-Winning Revelation Readings series provides a unique opportunity to hear rarely-produced classic plays performed by many of the finest actors in New York. Casting subject to change.
ABOUT the PLAYWRIGHTS
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Molière (1622-73) was born into a prosperous mercantile family with connections at court; his father served as upholsterer to King Louis XIV. Following a classical education, Jean-Baptiste was expected to follow the law and eventually inherit his father’s position; instead, he joined the Illustre Théâtre, a theatrical company run by the Béjart family, and took the stage name Molière to avoid bringing scandal on his family. After more than a dozen impoverished years touring the provinces, the company was invited to perform in Paris. From this point on, Molière’s career was closely tied to the court as he became a notable playwright and actor, creating a series of brilliant plays that satirized elegant society, including School for Wives, Don Juan, The Misanthrope, and The Miser. The fortunes of Tartuffe reflect Molière’s special relationship to the king. The clergy banned the play for its portrait of hypocritical piety when it premiered in 1664; Molière appealed to the king but even Louis, who had recently named Molière’s company the Troupe du roi, could not prevent the clergy from also banning the second version of the play; the third version was finally produced to acclaim in 1669. Molière died in 1673, shortly after performing the title role in the fourth performance of The Imaginary Invalid.]
Christopher Bayes began his theater career with the internationally acclaimed Theatre de la Jeune Lune where he worked for five years as an actor, director, composer, designer and artistic associate. In 1989 he joined the acting company of the Guthrie Theater where he appeared in over twenty productions.
His directing credits include over twenty devised works for such institutions as Yale School of Drama, The Juilliard School and NYU’s Graduate Acting Progam. Most recently he directed A Servant of Two Masters at Theater for a New Audience, Directed and Adapted with Steve Epp A Doctor In Spite of Himself( Intiman Theater, Yale Rep, Berkeley Rep) Ruzante an original work Adapted with Steve Epp based on the writings of Angelo Beolco (Yale, Theater for a New Audience) a new version of UBU adapted with Steve Epp from Alfred Jarry, Accidental Death of an Anarchist( Yale Rep, Berkeley Rep), and Scapin (Intiman Theater in Seattle and Court Theater in Chicago).
He was part of the creative team for the Broadway and Touring productions of THE 39 STEPS for which he created movement and served as Movement Director. He also created the Movement/Choreography for John Guare's Three Kinds of Exile at The Atlantic Theater.
He has served on the faculty of the Juilliard Drama School, the Actor's Center (founding faculty & master teacher of physical comedy/clown), Yale School of Drama, the Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, the Academy of Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington D.C., New York University's Graduate Acting Program and Tisch School of the Arts. He is currently Professor and Head of Physical Acting at the Yale School of Drama.
Steven Epp is an actor and writer based in Minneapolis. Steven was a co-Artistic Director of Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 1983-2008, winner of the 2005 Tony award for Best Regional Theatre.
In his 25 years with Jeune Lune Steven collaborated in the creation and performance of over 50 productions. He co-authored Children of Paradise, Outer-Critics Circle award for best new play, 1993; co-wrote and/or adapted scripts for Crusoe, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The 3 Musketeers, The Little Prince, Medea, Kafka’s Amerika, Dashiell Hammet’s Red Harvest, Marivaux’s The Deception. Steven adapted numerous opera projects for Jeune Lune including Don Juan Giovanni, The Magic Flute, Cosi Fan Tutte, Figaro, Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, and Boito’s Mefistofele.
Steven was a co-author of Fissures for The Humana Festival, adapted Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale for the Bakken Trio, Goldoni’s Il Campiello for Ten Thousand Things, Massoud, The Lion of Panjshir, commissioned by Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles, and extremely adapted Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor Lost for Actor’s Theater of Louisville.
Currently Steven is co-Artistic Director of The Moving Company where he has written The House Can’t Stand, Come Hell and High Water based on Faulkner’s novella Old Man, Out of the Pan Into the Fire, based on Grimm fairytales, Liberty Falls 54321, Speechless, and Refugia produced by The Guthrie Theatre.
With Christopher Bayes Steven has co-adapted Moliere’s A Doctor In Spite of Himself, Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters, Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Jarry’s Ubu Roi, and Ruzante, based on the plays of Angelo Beolco.
ABOUT the PLAY
Unlike most of the plays Molière wrote after his company became the King's troupe, Le médecin malgré lui was not commissioned by Louis XIV. Molière wrote it to complement the troupe's repertoire, but also to pick up momentum following two difficult seasons: his failing health had recently forced him to suspend performances, major members of his company had died or moved to the rival troupe L'Hôtel de Bourgogne, and his latest play, The Misanthrope, was not a success.
Molière drew his inspiration for the play from medieval folklore. The farce recounts the story of a peasant's wife who exacts revenge on her husband by proclaiming that he is a wonderful doctor but can only acknowledge it when beaten. Molière's other source, from which he drew the heroine's name and imaginary illness, was his own L'amour médecin, a comedy-ballet commissioned by the King and set to Lulli's music the previous year, in 1665.
The play's structure is based on the simple but effective principle of farce — the unfolding of an action ultimately crushes the character who initiated it. Were it not for Martine's timely reappearance at the end, Sganarelle would have been executed. In this respect, the apparently gratuitous scene of the neighbor at the beginning serves both as foretelling and summary of this principle: he who intervenes in someone else's problem ends up paying for it.
Within this structure, the play relies heavily on two types of comic devices: physical comedy (numerous beatings and fondlings), at which Molière the actor particularly excelled; and textual comedy, which came directly from the medieval tradition. In the original French, the peasant characters speak in their local jargon; Sganarelle uses pidgin Latin and resorts to upside down logic; colorful words, threats, and insults fly around; and Géronte and Lucinde perform a stock commedia dell'arte lazzi, or gag, after Lucinde recovers her voice. This lazzi ends unexpectedly with a third voice: baffled by Lucinde's resolutely loud refusal to obey him, Géronte, unable to get a word in edgewise, asks Sganarelle to make her mute again, to which Sganarelle answers: "That is impossible for me to perform. All I can do, at your service, it to make you deaf, if you'd like."
Molière not only rails against greedy quack doctors and ineffective medicine, but against credulity itself. A word from Sganarelle suffices to change Géronte's understanding of the place of human organs or to convince Thibaut and Perrin that cheese is a cure-all remedy. Indeed, religion itself is not spared — the miraculous cures Martine invents for her husband are directly drawn from the Bible. Even if all ends well, one cannot forget the major human failings Molière mirrors back to the audience in the course of the play.
Steven Epp's and Christopher Bayes' adaptation transposes the play to a contemporary American setting — including the bawdiness and misogyny prevalent in the original — and captures its essential musicality, in both the songs and the lyricism of the language. The puppet-theatre frame, which does not exist in Molière's play, highlights the farce and provides an introduction to the world of the play. Le médecin malgré lui was a notable success, playing 282 performances before Louis XIV's death. Along with Tartuffe, it remains Molière's most performed play.
Martine wishes to take revenge on her husband, the woodcutter Sganarelle, for beating her. When the servants of Géronte, a businessman whose daughter Lucinde has suddenly become mute, come in search of a physician to cure her, Martine persuades them that her husband is a famous physician with a strange aberration: he will only admit to his medical knowledge when he is beaten. A few good blows convince Sganarelle, and he is taken to Géronte’s house, where he begins to enjoy the attention paid to his absurd medical jargon. Learning that Lucinde is in love with Léandre and is only pretending to be mute to avoid a marriage that her father has arranged for her, Sganarelle disguises Léandre as an apothecary and brings him along to consult on Lucinde’s condition. At the sight of Léandre, Lucinde recovers her speech and becomes so talkative that her father begs Sganarelle to make her mute again; Sganarelle offers to make Géronte deaf instead. The lovers elope, but Géronte is reconciled to their marriage when he hears that Léandre has just inherited his uncle’s fortune.