Wineke: APT characters in 100-year-old play still relevant today
SPRING GREEN, Wis. — There are a lot of good things about attending late-season performances at American Players Theatre.
The mosquitoes are in hand. The walk up the hill is easier minus the high heat and humidity of July and August. The prices are reduced.
Then, of course, there’s the other side of the story. When you’re sitting in the bleachers on top of a hill at 10:30 p.m. and the temperature is 39 degrees, it is sometimes easier to lament the fact you left your hat and mittens at home than it is to concentrate on the stage.
So it was with the current production of “The Doctor’s Dilemma,” George Bernard Shaw’s 1906 comedy about the motives and misdeeds of London physicians.
It is a very funny production and raises questions about the medical profession that remain current more than a century later.
But one scene includes Abbey Siegworth posing as a model for her artist husband, Louis Dubedat (Samuel Taylor) wearing not much more than a neglige. And that led to the question, “Isn’t she freezing? We are.”
Well, so much for the weather. I’ve attended APT productions when it was snowing. But I did feel for Siegworth, who, in addition to freezing, delivered a very enjoyable performance.
The theme of the play is that there is a doctor, Sir Colenso Ridgeon, who has found a cure for tuberculosis, but he can care for only 10 patients at a time.
Siegworth, playing the role of Jennifer Dubedat, comes to him pleading for the life of her husband, but Ridgeon says no.
Well, at least, until he meets her and sees she is beautiful. He agrees to treat Dubedat but finds a dilemma when a colleague, Dr. Blankenson, played by David Daniel, also is diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Blankenson is the only noble character in the play. He has no money and treats the poor.
Ridgeon decides to turn Dubedat’s care over to a quack colleague, who is likely to kill the artist, leaving his beautiful wife a widow who, presumably, will then be free to marry Ridgeon.
Well, dumber things have happened.
In addition to the drama line of the play, Shaw introduces a complementary cast of pompous physicians, each of whom is convinced that his methods of treatment – each bizarre – will actually lead to superior medical outcomes for anyone willing to try them.
The play, as I said earlier, is more than 100 years old. But the characters could be drawn straight from today’s radio and television talk shows. Except, today, they talk about conflicting theories of whether fat or carbohydrates are likely to kill you first.
The underlying theme is often wrong, never in doubt.
It’s a very funny and very thoughtful play. One suggestion, make sure you have your hat and mittens in your coat pocket.