At a time when talk of “death panels” commands headlines, George Bernard Shaw’s “The Doctor’s Dilemma,” recently revived in London to critical acclaim, is a particularly timely satire about a celebrated physician who has just discovered a life-saving treatment for tuberculosis. Solomon-like, he must decide whether to use his serum to save an absolute scoundrel who is an artistic genius or an honorable associate who is an undistinguished mediocrity. The fact that he is in love with the genius’ wife makes his decision even more problematical.
For almost three hours, Shaw’s signature wit is in ample supply. Conversely and irritatingly, so is Shaw’s tendency to inject his own social and political beliefs into meandering interchanges of flagrant didacticism.
At the risk of infuriating Shaw enthusiasts and scholars, might one suggest that the frustratingly discursive “Dilemma” could have been, as is so often the case with Shakespeare, judiciously and respectfully pruned?
Enough with such blasphemous musings. After all, if stripped of extraneous rants, would Shaw really still be Shaw? Fortunately, in the play’s lively current staging at A Noise Within, director Dámaso Rodríguez and a ready cast ride Shaw’s hobbyhorse themes at a full gallop, blowing past the piece’s occasional stodginess with sheer comical verve.