Friday, Saturday, Sunday, March 17-19—WOODSTOCK—BarnArts will perform The Good Doctor by Neil Simon and Anton Chekhov, opening March 17 at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre. The show will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Simon adapted these Chekhovian tales for Broadway in the 1970s with a cast of five but a group of seven are collaborating as a community ensemble of actor/directors for BarnArts production, which also includes an intimate and creative black-box approach — audience and actors will be together on the Town Hall Theatre stage.
“A number of BarnArts directors have considered staging “The Good Doctor” over the past few years,” said BarnArts Executive Director Linda Treash. “And then I came up with this idea — bringing a community of directors together, all of whom are also actors, to put on this warm, ‘story of stories’ play.”
Treash is also one of the seven actor/directors.
Pentangle Arts Executive Director Alita Wilson suggested to Treash last summer that BarnArts consider a black box use of the 300+ seat theater. After a few meetings with Pentangle, Treash and “The Good Doctor” Creative Director Cliff Johnson agreed on a staging, which puts the actors and the audience together on the large stage, eliminating the size issues of using a large theater for intimate community productions. The creative staging helps bring tech costs down to an affordable level for BarnArts.
“This is such an exciting opportunity to bring a completely different theater experience to the Upper Valley,” said Johnson. “It is rare for audience and actors to share the stage, yet it supports the intimacy we prefer at BarnArts.”
“We will be able to seat 100, which is perfect for us,” said Treash, who is also the set designer. “We have a half-circle 16×13 thrust stage against the back brick wall of the theater, and our directors are staging using proscenium or theater-in-the-round techniques, as suits the various stories. We will be using an aisle as well as some wing area for the more complex scenes.”
The play centers on a Chekhov-like writer who leads the audience through nine scenes that go from ridiculous to absurd to charming and back again as the narrator reflects on the creative process, popping in and out of the stories.
Audience members will see what happens when a humble city worker sneezes on their boss during an opera performance, how a novice doctor inspires confidence in a painful dental surgery, how to negotiate a fair price for a volunteer drowning, and how the tables can turn on an artful seducer, among other strange yet humorous situations.
Since the play was written in the 1970s and based on stories written in the 1890s, BarnArts’ creative team looked critically at the material and casting when considering how to address the casual sexism, classism, and other issues that were more socially acceptable in previous decades.
This unique group of actor/directors comes from across central Vermont.
Erin Bennett, of Wilder, was most recently seen as Stella in BarnArts’ 2022 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Bennett’s directing experience goes back to her college days at Colby-Sawyer.
Abigail Bower, of Montpelier, is no stranger to BarnArts, having starred in “Other Desert Cities” (2019) and directed “The Clean House” (2019).
Elyse DeNeige, of Barnard, recently appeared in BarnArts fall production of “The Addams Family” and appeared previously on the Town Hall Theatre stage in Pentangle’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (2015).
Cliff Johnson, of Woodstock, performed with BarnArts twice last year in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.” He was a director and cast member of “Legal Follies” at Boston University School of Law.
Olivia Piepmeier, of Strafford, is building on previous acting and directing experiences as she makes her BarnArts on-stage debut after serving as house manager and assistant producer for The Addams Family (2022).
Linda Treash, of Barnard, directed A Streetcar Named Desire and “The Addams” Family in 2022 and has acted in three BarnArts productions, most recently the traveling 2020 version of It Can’t Happen Here.
Killian White, of Bethel, is also making her BarnArts debut but has been seen in productions with Artistree and Bald Mountain Theater where she also produces and directs.
“The Good Doctor” will run Friday and Saturday nights March 17-18 and 24-25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoons March 19 and 26 at 2 p.m. at the Woodstock Town Hall Theater.Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students. Tickets are available for purchase at: BarnArts.org.