In 17th century France, famous playwright Molire wrote several plays that poked fun at the medical profession.
C. David Frankel, assistant director for the USF theater program, took one of these famous plays, “The Doctor in Spite of Himself” and loosely modified the outdated comedy to give it what he calls “modern flavor.”
“The Doctor Is In!” opened at the USF School of Theatre and Dance on Thursday and is showing until Oct. 11. The play is a free adaptation, which means it adjusts the original story and characters to fit modern times.
“My main goal for the play was to make it funny,” Frankel said.
“The Doctor Is In!” follows a simple fisherman named Sganarelle who, because of his mischievous wife’s scheming, is mistaken as and persuaded into the role of a doctor.
Realizing that doctors make a prettier penny than fishermen, Sganarelle agrees to cure rich Geronte’s speechless daughter. His lack of medical knowledge is masked by his quick wit and fancy medical words.
What ensues is silliness and slapstick humor as a result of a fake doctor’s attempts to miraculously cure a fake illness.
“The play is funny because it plays on classic humor. There are a lot of farcical situations,” said David Barrow, a senior theater performance major and the actor who plays Geronte. “It is all about getting the timing just right.”
According to a press release, Frankel modernized the piece while using elements of old
American humor like vaudeville, which incorporates pantomime, dialogue, dancing and song into the play.
“What I was interested in doing was bringing the language into our period. Although I have altered the language significantly, I have not really changed the story,” Frankel said. “By changing the circumstances of the story to modern times, it does have some effect on how we experience the story. Although, hopefully it will remain funny.”
In the press release, Frankel described the play as a fusion of the hit TV shows “My Name Is Earl” and “Scrubs,” “built on a foundation of the Marx Brothers,” an American family comedy act.
Some of the ingredients in the modern-flavored play are references to songs, television shows and films.
Toward the play’s climax, the money-hungry Sganarelle shouts, “Show me the money!” in reference to the phrase from the film “Jerry Maguire.” He later instructs another character to “hit me with your best shot.” To calm down, Sganarelle chants the popular “Woo-sah” from the movie “Bad Boys II.”
Much of the comedy in the play comes from physical action. The comedic highlight is a strobe-lit, slow-motion fight scene between three characters: Sganarelle, Lucas and Valere.
There is sexual innuendo that will keep students entertained. As a doctor, Sganarelle feels compelled to tell Geronte that his nanny needs a breast exam, and impressed by Sganarelle’s mile-a-minute mouth, Lucas confesses, “I wish my tongue could move like his.”
The set also has a tendency to surprise with its trap doors and hidden compartments. Scenic designer Rachel Bulgrin described the set as a playground for the actors.
“It tricks you,” Bulgrin said. “I wanted the audience to question what they are seeing. Your initial thoughts are that it is a drama, but with the little tricks here and there and when you start seeing the actors, you realize it is a comedy.”
Another unusual aspect of “The Doctor Is In!” is that it is one of the only free adaptation comedies USF has recently produced.
“Not many of the plays are free adaptations, but occasionally we create our own work either from scratch or by adapting material that already exists,” Frankel said.
According to the press release, the score was also an original composed by recent USF graduate Igor Santos.
Tickets for “The Doctor Is In!” can be purchased online at arts.usf.edu or at the box office in the Theatre II lobby. Tickets are $8 in advance for USF students. Show times are 8 p.m. Oct. 7 to 10 and 3 p.m. Oct. 11.