Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
It's often said that laughter is the best medicine. Need a prescription? Then page Meridian High School's production of The Love Doctor!
Commissioned by King Louis XIV of France in 1665, The Love Doctor brings together dialogue and characters from the other works of playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin dit Moliere in a fun-filled sketch comedy. Inspired by the melodramatic wit and larger-than-life characters of commedia dell'arte, Moliere's The Love Doctor brings audiences into a world of uptight aristocrats, scheming lovers, and charismatic fools united by the one illness no doctor can cure: lovesickness.
Each member of the almost 30 person cast brought a unique personality to the stage, with every subplot and comedic bit executed with a consistent perfection. The actors committed fully to the show's irreverent humor, with each individual's performance blending seamlessly into the production's lively ensemble.
As the determined, dim-witted Sganarelle, Matthew Bloss-Baum carried the chaotic storyline with a humorous, yet heartfelt performance embellished with over-the-top flair. With a cartoonish gait and overemphasized facial expressions which highlighted the actor's impeccable comedic timing, Bloss-Baum's endearing performance embodied the carefree bliss of a witty, good-hearted fool. In a role where the character takes on multiple disguises throughout the show, Bloss-Baum created distinct and recognizable personas for each plot Sganarelle becomes entangled in, without losing the upbeat energy and untiring personality central to the character. Bloss-Baum flawlessly switched between the upstanding, pseudointellectual "doctor" and the hunchbacked, shrill-voiced "peasant", showcasing the performer's dynamic acting ability.
One of the show's most delightful scenes was the medical role-play rendezvous of Sabine and Leandre, portrayed by Abby Fred and Hugo Ratheau respectively. Ratheau's cleverly timed beats and overeager expressions as Sabine prompted Leandre, pretending to be a doctor, to "examine" her matched well with Fred's suggestive tone and enamored gaze, creating a deeply humorous bond between the two characters. Additionally, Ratheau maintained Leandre's lilting voice and balletic movements throughout the performance - a cleverly comedic portrayal of a wealthy Frenchman who has lost his status. Declan Kennedy's Velare fit well into the comedic ensemble, but his "stealthy" entrances as he tiptoed exaggeratedly onstage and his suave tone as he planned to elope with his lover formed a unique character that rounded out the main company.
Designed by Augie Reitmeyer, The Love Doctor's set featured a two-story Parisian manor complete with opening French doors and a climbable balcony. A hidden flight of stairs gave actors access to the painted interior behind the balcony and allowed the cast and crew to make expert use of the impeccably decorated scenery. Meridian's hair and makeup team, led by Joy Wilson, drew inspiration from the stark class differentiation represented in commedia dell'arte masks to create personalized makeup looks that reflected the status of each character, with the nobility's powdered faces and traditional French looks sharply contrasting the subtle tones and prominent beauty marks of the peasant class.
With its lively enthusiasm and gut-busting humor, Meridian High School's production of Moliere's The Love Doctor brought the healing power of love to life onstage, reminding us that romance has the power to make fools of us all.
Wakefield High School
Burning brighter than the sun, it's as if a million little stars emerged upon the stage at Meridian High School's production of The Love Doctor. This show invites everyone along for a night of chaos in which mundane merchant lives become your wildest dreams.
Written by Jean-Baptiste Molière, The Love Doctor was composed, rehearsed, and performed in just 5 days for King Louis XIV in 1665, and now belongs to the public domain. It stars Sganaralle, a peasant who poses as a doctor to prescribe Lucile Gorgibus an escape from her arranged marriage and a path to happiness with her true love. But of course, posing as a doctor has its consequences, and all things must fall apart before they can be put back together.
Meridian High School's exhibition flaunted an incredible ensemble that donned gorgeous costumes. Every single member of the cast was marvelously unique, never broke character despite all of the madness ensuing, and allowed for the exploration of the depths of every individual storyline, making each interaction complex and captivating.
Matthew Bloss-Baum, as Sganarelle, delivered a captivating performance. Bloss-Baum developed a character that was nothing less than spectacular, from perfectly exaggerated expressions to killingly funny kinesthetic choices. Bloss-Baum showcased incredible duality, at one point playing both Sganarelle and Sganarelle's fake twin brother, effortlessly switched posture, expression, and even voice inflection. Sganarelle was countered by his partner in crime, Declan Kennedy as Valere, who showed exceptional comedic timing. Kennedy lent Valere layers, and each one revealed something new and unforeseen–a true feat. Kennedy's portrayal of a young boy in love was heartwarming, sweet, and silly all at once.
The supporting cast, specifically Edith Jägerskog as Madame Gorgibus and Paxton Hebblethwaite as Mr. Roberts, propelled the plot forward incomparably. Jägerskog prompted an anticipatory smile every time Madame Gorgibus entered the stage, always funny and always fierce, worked in perfect harmony with every cast member. Hebblethwaite, as the very passionate, very British Mr. Roberts, delivered flawlessly. From rapping to monologuing, Hebblethwaite had it all.
Costume design, by Sophie O'Hara, Jamie Williamson, and Geneva Kozma successfully immersed the audience in the lawless land which Sganerelle ventured. Each pair of love interests matched colors (Sabine/Leandre each wore green), every doctor had a unique aspect to their coats (a marvelous help to distinguish between them), and the difference in status was accurately depicted (hoop skirts with bright fabrics for the Queen's court, earth-toned trousers for the working class). The Love Doctor Orchestra, conducted by Carlos Ortiz, also allowed for immersion within the audience. There was character-specific entrance music, there was a mix of original pieces and modern pieces which were re-arranged, and the movements of the ensemble matched impeccably the beat and tune of the orchestra. The orchestra even joined the organized chaos, playing music while running over people laying on the floor, climbing the set, and interacting with the ensemble.
Whether you're sick of love or lovesick, there's no doubt Meridian High School's The Love Doctor is a show for all. Hilarity to the point of tears, this is truly what it means to be unforgettable.