Theater Review: "The Doctor's Dilemma" At A Noise Within
The play follows a doctor, the recently-knighted Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Geoff Elliott), who is the first to develop an infallible cure for tuberculosis. He operates a very small private practice, and can only take ten patients at a time. He is by far the most competent within his group of doctor friends, who mostly manage to accidentally not kill people. Based on Colenso's sterling reputation, an alluring, if financially-challenged young woman, Jennifer (Jules Willcox) comes to him for help in curing her talented scoundrel of a husband (Jason Dechert), who is suffering from TB. However, when Colenso discovers that his most upstanding friend, Blenkinsop (David LM McIntyre), is also suffering from the disease, Colenso must decide who to save and who to pawn off on one of his more incompetent colleagues.
While the plot is not easy to summarize or succinct, neither is the play as a whole. While plays from the Victorian era are not known for the immediate accessibility, this play in particular seems more obtuse than most. This hinders the show, which is often dull and seems to get caught up in its own language. A Noise Within is no stranger to mounting successful productions of challenging shows (e.g. "Cymbeline," which is currently playing in repertory with "The Doctor's Dilemma," last season's "The Bungler"), so it is disappointing that this one falls short.
It's not easy to say where the fault lies. Most of the acting is passable, but rarely engaging, though Kelly Ehlert is a delightful standout in her few minutes onstage as Minnie Tinwell, a maid with an interesting past. Dámaso Rodriguez's direction brings the show to the stage passably, but a sense of relevancy between the play and the present is missing. Even the lighting design, by Brian Gale, disappoints, with a pair of lights flanking the stage flickering distractingly throughout the performance.
"The Doctor's Dilemma" is not A Noise Within's finest offering, and it is a disappointing companion to the vastly superior "Cymbeline." Luckily for audiences, though, "Cymbeline" plays through November 18.