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THEATER BEAT

Moliere's 'Doctor' Suffers as Musical

November 08, 1996|JANA J. MONJI

If Moliere were alive today, he might be screaming malpractice. "Quack!," Charles Marowitz's freely adapted musical version of Moliere's "The Doctor in Spite of Himself" at Cal Rep in Long Beach, is a messy mix of vaudeville and old-fashioned American musical traditions, made much worse by Marowitz's own leaden direction.

Having been beaten by her husband, Marti (Susan Watson) convinces two men that her woodcutter husband, Orville (Matt Gourley), is a great physician who will only admit he is a doctor after being beaten. Taken to the house of a rich man (Peter Zapp), Orville attempts to cure the man's daughter (Katie Johnson), who has been struck speechless.

Gourley inexplicably transforms from doltish palooka/working man to Groucho Marx-like lecherous doctor. He's not the only one, either. Character development is usurped by comically drawn eyebrows of the actors and overblown caricatures.

Composer Michael Valenti and lyricist Marowitz do manage to introduce one lovely melody, "The Seduction Song," which is sung by Deanna Boyd. Her sweet soprano is the best voice in the cast. Yet as director, Marowitz has botched the timing, and his staging is stagnant. Far worse, he's done a serious disservice to a French master and a genre. If vaudeville isn't dead already, this may do it.

* "Quack!," Cal Rep, Studio Theatre, Cal State Long Beach, 7th Street and West Campus Drive, Long Beach. Wednesdays, 6 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Ends Nov. 16. $15. (310) 985-7000. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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