Critique of the Week

I don’t know if I remember Frances giving anyone such a lashing as she does here. It’s one of those moments where a critic seems to reach a breaking point and simply says, “Fuck it.” And it is directed at the creative force behind this project, there is absolutely no doubt about that as you’ll see. She simply takes Randall Gray out to the tool shed and and gives him a whupping he won’t soon forget.

DOCTOR, DOCTOR
Frances Baum Nicholson – The Stage Struck Review

Hubris is an amazing thing. The first tell-tale sign of it in “Doctor! Doctor!”, the new show at the brand new Stages of Gray in Pasadena is the most obvious. The man who wrote this piece (it is difficult to call it a play), and directed this piece, and produced this piece is also the person after whom this new small theater is named. The program already touts it as “The Newest and Best Intimate Theater Venue in Los Angeles County.” This before a single word of critique has been written about it or the folks who populate it. It might have been better, on all counts, to let the work and the space speak for themselves.

Randall Gray’s production purports to be about “recent legislation” surrounding health care – a statement which intimates that it will be about Obamacare. It turns out the thing was written in 1991, and is based on legislation which never went through, which would have created medical clinics with multiple specialties, allowing a person to pay one fee to see all the doctors in the place. This is about one such office, and the comedy which would ensue if a glut of medical personnel tried to work together.

Which gives the impression that this thing has a plot. There is almost a plot, I suppose, sandwiched into what becomes essentially a karaoke concert. For anyone who has sat through a night of karaoke, you know the variable quality of performance that implies. Here, it fits, but comes accompanied by an even more uneven – and in some cases nonsensical – choreographic enterprise.

Christine Cater, Sarajane Williams, Claudia Zielke, Michelle J. Feng and Wendy Rostker play doctor’s assistants and nurses at this supposed clinic. Every once in a while, they even talk as if they know about being in a medical office. Most of their time, however, is spent acting out one of various female stereotypes: the former cheerleader turned gold digger, the gum-chewing bimbo, the officious and oversexed “typical” Black woman, the efficient girl who sees a career as a conduit to marriage and – and we will talk more about this – the older woman sexually obsessed with her boss.

Claudia Zielke does the stereotypical ditzy blonde, romanced by Cody Bushee as the stereotypical entitled rich boy in “Doctor! Doctor!”
That is when they are not singing disco hits, complete with pink lights and a mirror ball.

Oh, and then there are the doctors. Rich Lee is the great stone face. J.D. Driskill is the “Doogie Howser” youthful type, evidenced mostly by being able to dance like Michael Jackson. Neil Lewis is the startlingly (in this show) nonstereotypical, businesslike, African-American gynecologist. Mark Colbenson actually has comic timing and a certain ability to rise above the fray (perhaps because he doesn’t really sing any of the songs) as the psychologist, although his lines consist mostly of “get in my office and lie on the couch!”

Jon Christie is actually the best, or at least the most consistent, of the performers, playing the deranged dentist – a part which basically is Jim Carey at his most manic as the dentist from “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Cody Bushee plays the rich guy (inexplicably equipped with a corn cob pipe), while Sarah Davenport shows up briefly as a very pregnant lady convinced that this office will kill her baby. Certainly, if their attention to detail elsewhere is any evidence, she may be right.

This show is supposed to be funny. We get this, as Rostker, the older, obsessed medical assistant, appears on stage to start the show, mugs, does inexplicable things to the set’s chairs, mugs some more… and precedes to deliver her lines, once she has some, with a care to make a face between each sentence. Indeed, this opening should be treated as warning: there will be no comic timing from this point forward.

Frankly, Randall Gray should be ashamed of himself. The night I saw it, he was often the only person laughing, or the one laughing the loudest. It bodes poorly for this company’s future. His concept is poorly executed, and the show ends up as a triple threat: his cast (for the most part) can’t sing, can’t act and have no script worth trying to follow. On the second night he was already begging his audience to stay past intermission (which hits 90 minutes in). Take the hint.

The next show at this venue is to be “Born Yesterday,” a great 50s play intended for one of America’s great comic actresses and saying much about the world of Washington in the mid-20th Century. If he can get a cast up to the challenge, and invest the production with comic timing so that the message is deliverable, it could be a hit. Maybe. Not really holding out much hope at this point.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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  1. Randall Gray says:

    Colin:

    I wanted to take the time to respond to your comments regarding Ms. Nicholson’s review. Actually, as I have learned the purpose of this review was not to actually review the show in question, but to personally attack me, I have overlooked this ATTEMPT at a “Whupping” as you call it immediately.
    I am an internationally recognized theater critic myself Sir, and I have produced and or directed 104 productions prior to my current show, Doctor, Doctor. I am VERY proud of my new theater, of this show, and of the AMAZING cast that we have performing this show. I have learned from some extremely prominent people in the theater industry with “us” that Ms. Nicholson apparently has some sort of a negative bent toward me personally. I am not certain that this is the case, but if indeed it is, what a unprofessional manner in which to exert that bent.
    It is very clear that she did not pay close enough attention to the show to see all the subtle story lines within the show, and I found it a bit offensive that even after my telling her personally the names of the actors on stage, she still managed to misrepresent actors by using the wrong names in her review.
    We have been receiving some truly wonderful reviews from other publications of note, and nothing but positive feedback from our audiences. There was no mention of the new theater and its amenities, no mention of anything positive in any manner.
    I truly believe that if Ms. Nicholson’s readers are wise, which I believe most readers are, they will compare her review to the others we have received. When they see that she stands completely alone in this negative and arrogant misrepresentation of our current production, she may find that she looses some of her readership. Pasadena Now just awarded us with their “Best New Thing in Pasadena” acknowledgement, CBS gave us a GLOWING review, and there are even more that I could mention but I know that intelligent readers can find these for themselves.
    To attempt to show the respect to Ms. Nicholson that she did not seem able to show me or anyone in my cast, I thank her for coming to see our show. However, I will join the ever growing number of theaters who have chosen to ban her from ever returning to my theater, as regardless of what she may think of me, my actors and crew deserve better than this.
    Shame on you Ms. Nicholson for choosing to find absolutely nothing positive to say. Your “True Colors” have shown through, and your type of writing will soon prove that fact to those who see the real truth and not this particular form of unprofessional behavior.

    Thank You,
    Randall Gray
    The VERY PROUD Owner, Director, & Writer of Doctor, Doctor! Now on stage at the brand new Stages of Gray Theatre Company in Pasadena, CA with an AMAZING and DEDICATED Cast and Crew whom I respect completely!

  2. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    Whatever the virtues of Mr Gray’s play, he has written a front-runner for 2013′s Most Cringe-inducing Response to a Pan award.

  3. For the record, until the night I visited his new theater and saw his play, I had never seen, heard of, or had any interest in Mr. Gray in my life. Mr. Gray needs new sources for his information.

  4. Jon Michael says:

    My comment is not one of whether or not Mr. Gray is a good or bad writer/director. Nor is it regarding whether or not reviewers did a good or bad job writing an in depth review of his show.

    My comment is simply to say this: that Mr. Randall Gray is handling this harsh criticism with more courage and integrity than most of us would in his place. I have dealt with reviews equally harsh and I would never even think to publicly defend and stand up against those who criticize me. He will have my undying respect for that.

    Also, I as a reader don’t appreciate Colin Mitchell’s rebuttal to Mr. Gray’s personal defense of his show. He dealt with a very “bitter” review and has since voiced his opinion of it. Why are you, Mr. Mitchell, pouring salt into a wound? Why not let his comment stand?

    All this to say, despite what you on this forum are saying about him, Randall has shown more grace and integrity than the rest of you by a laughable margin.

    To sum, Randall Gray has “whupped” the rest of you at being a respectable human being.

  5. Jon Michael says:

    My apologies Mr. Mitchell- after reading your bio your goal is actually to “piss off as many people as possible.”

    Please continue to spread negativity to others, if that is your desire. I would assume it is only because that is all you have been receiving in this life. I must say, I pity you if your goal is to make others feel awful about themselves.

    I encourage you to “change things up a bit” and be a positive influence on society. But until then, enjoy the dark rock you live under.

    • Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

      Welcome to the Rock, Jon Michael. Where people with no sense of humor come to discover that they have no sense of humor.

      But please, by all means enlighten me how Randall has shown grace and integrity in his response to this criticism. Was it when he publicly aired his clinical delusions of grandeur in the comments section of this site? Or maybe it was when he wrote a review of his own show? I’m having trouble sorting out which one had the grace and which one had the integrity?

      But I’m sure someone as positive and canny as yourself will be able to set me straight.

  6. Brian says:

    I love that this is happening. It’s amazing. But I hate that FBM is being called names by the director/writer/producer/critic/lover of the word “intelligent.”

    Seriously though, how many times did he use the word “intelligent?” Between his comment here and his review I think it must be like 7 or 8.

    Again, I’m making a plea to the LA Theater community: Please make this play a theatrical version of “The Room.” The run of this play should never end.