The Good Doctor This is Neil Simon for people who like to stick their noses up at Neil Simon. Adapted from and suggested by stories of Anton Chekhov, this pleasant evening of sketch comedy allows the world's most successful playwright to riff on one of the world's most sublime authors. They're an odd couple, to be sure, but most of these short playlets are offbeat, original and amusing. Some are pure farce. But others, like the story of the father who is trying to buy his son his first prostitute, are heartwarming in a way that Simon usually is not. As the Narrator (Chekhov's stand-in), Jeff Goldblum lookalike Jeremiah Martin anchors the minimalist evening with a steady assurance. Performed through September 18 by the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves, 517 Theatre Lane, Webster Groves. Tickets are $12 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-962-0876. (Dennis Brown)
A Midsummer Night's Dream An energetic cast of eleven performs all the roles in this 90-minute take on Shakespeare, cleverly using the Pool Pavilion in Tower Grove Park as their stage. Amid picnic baskets, shouts of children playing and the honking horns of passing wedding parties, this Hydeware in the Park production scores laughs with broad physical humor but misses out on genuine character development and interaction. Richard Strelinger's bare-bones version of the script conveys Shakespeare's intertwining stories of the royal lovers, the fairy lovers and the rustics by updating characters and language in unexpected (and perhaps unnecessary) ways. Puck is played by Richon May as a cheerleader (complete with pleated miniskirt and high kicks); other characters insert modern swear words, and Bottom's "ass" mask includes neon-pink hair. The production is most solid in the scenes where the rustics practice and perform their play -- it's surefire comedy everyone can enjoy. And Strelinger's choice to give Puck's final speech to the entire ensemble as a choral piece brings the play to a satisfying conclusion. Through September 18 at the Pool Pavilion in Tower Grove Park (just west of Center Cross Drive). Free. Call 314-368-7306. (Deanna Jent)
Valhalla Reviewed in this issue.