"Playing Doctor" Nov. - Dec. 2002
By William Van Zandt & Jane Milmore, Directed by Rick Bates
From The Daily World Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Rob Brewster's living a lie and he'd like to keep it that way. Doing so, however, proves to be a complicated prescription.
So goes the plot of the Driftwood Players' latest outing, "Playing Doctor," a zany farce about a struggling writer/college drop-out who never quite became the doctor his uppity parents believe him to be.
When the folks unexpectedly announce they are stopping by his apartment, Brewster (played by Charlie McKissick) chooses to continue his deception.
His dimwitted secretary becomes a nurse.
His literary-themed apartment becomes a doctor's office.
His roommate, Jimmy Carmichael (Jason Whited), becomes ...
Well, Carmichael becomes several people, not the least of whom is the stealer of Driftwood's stage.
A struggling actor, Carmichael is called upon to gather his acting friends to play patients in Brewster's mock office. Problem is, none of them show, leaving Carmichael to play nearly all the roles himself.
Whited's portrayal of the atrocious thespian is spot-on. His over-the-top stage antics, over-dressing and physical stature (think Elvis in his later years) help the Willapa Harbor native dominate nearly every play he's in. This one's no different.
In fairness, Whited did have one advantage over his fellow cast members -- he played the same part a few years back when the Willapa Players staged "Playing Doctor."
While Whited stands out, the rest of the cast is anything but ailing.
In the lead role, McKissick offers an even temperament, although at times he's so mild-mannered it appears difficult for him to deviate and hit the play's high notes. When he's mad, you're not as scared as you should be, and when he's happy, you're not elated.
However, McKissick is also hindered a bit by the role. It's tough to generate sympathy for an unpublished writer -- bankrolled by his wealthy parents -- who can afford both a secretary and top-shelf Crown Royal blended whiskey.
The lack of sympathy is good for the plot, however, because Brewster's misery is what makes "Playing Doctor" funny. Adding to the humor is secretary Max Blake (Christine Vanairsdale). Vanairsdale nails the role, mixing in the stereotypical nasal drawl with abundant air headedness guaranteed to force any secretary in the audience into some spur-of-the moment introspection.
David Foscue was well-rehearsed, as usual, in his role as Brewster's father, Robert. Foscue hit every line and even saved the backstage crew once when they missed a cue to ring the doorbell. The Superior Court judge simply restated his lines and the bell rang.
Ravishing, once again, was Willapa Harbor's Katrina Denny. In her second Driftwood role, Denny is convincing as a neighbor's psychotic ex-wife who's now dating Carmichael and hiding it from her jealous former husband.
The rest of the cast features Jon Williams (to be forever known as "Sponge bob"); Darlene Vammen as the doctor's servile mother, and Bryan Ewing, whose role as Uncle Harold gives the play some added bark.
Tying it all together is director Rick Bates, whose fondness for playwrights William Van Zandt and Jane Milmore dates back to at least 1995, when Bates won Driftwood's Ham Award for his role in a play written by the same duo.
Several cast members from this play will also likely see nominations for that award. Aside from a few forgotten lines and some opening night missteps, "Playing Doctor" stopped just short of being super. That's a hint. Less subtly, the play is good tonic. Just what the doctor ordered.
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