The Flying Doctor
Central Booking Art Space
21 Ludlow Street, New York
The Flying Doctor is a one-act written by the legendary French playwright Molière when he was in his early twenties (it was his first play), and so it seems fitting that it gets such an exuberantly fun and energetic production by a group of young actors who have staged it at the back of Central Booking, an art gallery and performance space on the Lower East Side. You can look at some of the art for sale in front and then when the house is open in back you enter a world that looks like Andy Warhol’s Factory during its silver era in the 1960s, when it was covered in aluminum foil.
Director Michael Doliner, who also plays keyboard and plays the role of Villebrequin, has chosen to do The Flying Doctor three times in succession, the first two times expansively and the third time quickly and desperately, with parts of it missing. And so this is a creative free-for-all of a show that mixes and matches Molière’s text with some scraps of James Joyce, Victor Hugo, and excerpts from Match.com and the Harvard University Course Catalog.
This production of The Flying Doctor is also packed with music and songs, all of which are put over in a lusty and abandoned fashion by the cast. It’s tough to get laughs with some of Molière’s original material, but these young troupers do anything and everything to get them. Everyone here gives their all, but the hardest worker has to be Josh Wolonick, who plays the extremely stupid servant Sganarelle. Wolonick seizes his juicy but difficult part and works it tirelessly, in just the right John-Ritter-as-Jack-Tripper slapstick manner. Sara Jecko also gets a lot of unlikely laughs as the amusingly named Gross Rene, and she plays a mean guitar, too.
When a female romantic lead is replaced in the second telling of the play and then that woman vanishes altogether in the third and grim last telling, The Flying Doctor goes for a tear or two after all the laughter and music, and this switching of gears works just as well as everything else does. There is a sense sometimes that this production is being used to show off the full talents of the cast, but this showcase quality never intrudes on the overall seriousness and focus that they bring to the play and its repetition. The homemade “putting on a show” atmosphere here is intoxicating; a small cup of champagne is poured out for all audience members at the start of the performance, which adds to the effervescence that makes The Flying Doctor such a delightful experience.
Photo by Steven Pisano