There are reasons to see a show above and beyond the quality of the script. And in the case of the comedy “Love, Lies, and the Doctor’s Dilemma,” which runs one week only at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, those reasons are many. In this case, it’s actually a special treat to see how much an enormously talented resident company can do with their imaginations and skill to create wildly hilarious entertainment with so little.
Written in 2016 by Michael Parker and Susan Parker and with limited regional theater productions since then, “Love, Lies, and the Doctor’s Dilemma” is a classic farce in that it’s about a ridiculous situation, and that drives the story more than a meaty plot or rich characters.
Widow Joan and her former gardener Sandy are in love and living the dream growing enough marijuana to supply their own breakfast pot brownies. But when Joan’s judgmental sister-in-law Olivia, an overly-dramatic former movie star, comes to town, Joan lies about who Sandy is to hide their relationship. One lie leads to another, and a cast of characters gets involved to maximize the confusion and silliness: the ditzy neighbor girl Rachael, Joan’s son Chris who owes thugs money (but it’s not as simple as that), and Vinnie “The Enforcer” who’s there to squeeze the money out of Chris.
Binge eating, getting high, impromptu therapy without a license, forced drag, mistaken identity, canoodling, high-speed chases (on foot), misspoken words and play with language all ensue — and delightfully so at The Barn thanks to wonderful direction from Brendan Ragotzy and fantastic physical comedy as well as otherwise inspired performances.
Though guest artist Mary Jane Guymon creates an appropriately meek and flaky Joan, the central character, at times she slows down the pace and doesn’t quite keep up with the rest of the cast who show just how much comedic magic can be made despite a show’s inherent shortcomings.
Five actors transform their given caricatures into fascinating characters who make us laugh and fall in love with them and in so doing create a fun show well worth seeing.
It’s the way Charlie King pets his gun holster and expresses such depth of emotion on his face as Vinnie; and Melissa Cotton Hunter’s enormous eyes as Rachael who at times speaks in pitches only dogs can hear and giggles as she makes an exit; it’s how Johnnie Carpathios turns the sympathetic good son into daughter in drag who coyly hides behind blond wig locks; it’s the infinite ways Patrick Hunter physically shows surprise and exasperation, his motifs in gesture as Sandy; and how Samantha Rickard’s Olivia convincingly shifts from overbearing and stuck up to stoned and good-humored, licking pot brownie crumbs from her fingers.
It’s all the little genius choices, one right after the next. And it’s all in the impeccable timing.
So many brilliant silly moments add up, it plain doesn’t matter what comes next or whether the words they’re given are well written. You just don’t want to miss it.
Steven Lee Burright’s set creates dynamic though limited spaces in and through which the uproarious physical comedy unfolds, and Michael Wilson Morgan’s costumes are central to the plot as well as character creation: Joan’s hippie-dippy cotton dress, Sandy’s goofy sunglasses on a neck strap, Olivia’s cleavage-enhancing dress, Chris’s balloon cleavage-enhancing dress. It’s all to maximize the storytelling, the laughter.
This, in short, is what they know how to do at The Barn. Really great farces are few and far between, but here they’re so well-versed at how to make them wonderful, even a less than stellar script becomes the kind of crowd-pleasing joyful summer fare we’ve come to expect and admire at The Barn.
Love, Lies, and the Doctor’s Dilemma
The Barn Theatre