The Flying Doctor

The first play Moliere ever wrote was The Flying Doctor, a simple comedy based on the Italian Renaissance-era “commedia dell’arte” stock characters. It’s got a few good jokes, and lots of opportunities for hamming it up. Played straight, it’s maybe 30 minutes long.

Someone in my office sent out a broadcast e-mail announcing a local production of the play in an experimental theater venue at the south edge of Chinatown, with tickets that are practically free. I have a theory that NYC is the best place in the world to be an audience member for any kind of performance, so I took note. On Friday, I finally got to see it.

The production is theater in the round, sort of. You walk through Central Booking, which is something between a housewares store and and art gallery, to a doorway draped with silver tinsel. Through the door is a room full of mirrors and lights at all strange angles, surrounding a mirror-surfaced stage on the floor. (It looks like this.)

Then the actors come in, and the dream begins. In the first half, the actors perform the entire play, seamlessly shifting between cast and band for mood-appropriate indie rock musical numbers. When acting, lines are often repeated and varied, like an improv troupe looking for the perfect version of the story.

Just as the play ends, it loops to the beginning again, this time faster, greedier, less funny, more real, and the comedy tips into an impossible metaplot tragedy.

On Friday night, there were equally many people in the audience as on stage, and only enough seats for maybe a 3:1 ratio at full capacity. On a talent per seat per dollar basis, this show is the deal of a lifetime. If you’d like to spend 90 minutes in a classic, fantastic, otherworldly theatrical experience, and you’re going to be in Manhattan before July 2nd, I highly recommend it.

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