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Beckwith’s ‘Playing Doctor’ a zany comedy

Published 9:26pm Wednesday, April 17, 2013
James Huffman, Peggy Gannon, Rebecca Maxey and Jack Gannon rehearse.
James Huffman, Peggy Gannon, Rebecca Maxey and Jack Gannon rehearse.

 

The cast “Playing Doctor” at Beckwith Theatre the next two weekends hopes the third time’s the charm.

 

Twice before Beckwith has tried to mount this 1983 farce by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore.

 

Jack Gannon directs a combination of Beckwith veterans and theater newcomers, including Mandy Lattin of St. Joseph, who makes her stage debut as nymphomaniac Maureen. She did lights and sound for “Bad Year for Tomatoes.”

 

Rob Brewster’s (James Huffman, of Niles) parents (Gannon and his wife, Peggy) are pompously proud of their son, the doctor. Huffman hasn’t acted since high school.

 

They don’t know Rob lived on all the money they gave him for eight years of medical school while pursuing his fledgling writing career.

 

Inevitably, Rob’s day of reckoning comes when his parents visit.

 

Quickly, he enlists the help of his secretary (Rebecca Maxey) to morph into his nurse and his roommate, Jimmy (Jeff Gunn), to round up actor buddies to portray patients.

 

“I was cast in the play,” Gannon said before Wednesday night’s rehearsal, “then part-way in was asked to direct. I directed the final play last year, ‘Bad Year for Tomatoes.’ Jeff, Mandy and Rebecca also stepped in and have done a wonderful job. All productions take a lot of effort and pulling together. This one more than some. There’s a lot of entering, exiting, timing and some physical humor.”

 

Another Niles resident, Brian Beckwith (no relation to the building), plays the jealous “jackass” bully in hot pursuit of Maureen.

 

If it sounds like an “I Love Lucy” episode, costumer and former county commissioner Wendy Elsey assures, “Actually, it’s more like Marx Brothers meet Three Stooges. Lucy without the subtlety.”

 

“More slapstick,” agrees Mike Frazier, retired Dowagiac Middle School principal.

 

“This will be an opportunity for young adults who went through the school system to see Mr. Frazier crawl around barking,” Gannon said.

 

“This is Beckwith Theatre’s Scottish play,” Gunn said, referring to the euphemism for William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

 

According to theatrical superstition, called the Scottish curse, speaking the name Macbeth outside a theater causes disaster. A variation of the superstition forbids direct quotation of the play (except during rehearsals) while inside a theater.

 

 “Last time, the director ended up in the hospital. It was the last play of the year, so they just trashed it,” Peggy Gannon said.

 

“We’ve had to overcome a lot to get to where we are,” her husband said, “so from now on it will just be ‘The Medical Play.’ It has very funny characters in increasingly implausible situations and is family-friendly, though not highly sophisticated.”

 

“You know it’s funny when you’ve been rehearsing a few months and you’re still laughing at the jokes. I think the audience will definitely enjoy it,” said Maxey, who plays a dark-haired “dumb blonde.”

 

Gannon is the Chicagoan content to sit in the audience until founding member Paul Pugh looked at him in his golf shirt and shorts at “The Belle of Amherst,” saw something and said, “ ‘I think you’d be good in one of our plays.’ He had never spoken to me up to that point. I never wondered what it was like up there (on stage), but I really love it. It’s a wonderful thing to have fallen in our laps.”

What: “Playing Doctor”

 

Synopsis: Misdirection and mistaken identity abound in this slapstick farce about a med school dropout turned aspiring writer who tries to convince his parents he’s a successful doctor with help from zany friends.

 

Where: Beckwith Theatre Co., 100 New York Ave., Dowagiac

 

When: April 19, 20 and 21 and 26, 27 and 28. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday performances are at 2 p.m.

 

Tickets cost: $10

 

For reservations: Call (269) 782-ROLE (7653).

 

 

 

 

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