On November 10, 11 and 12 Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford delighted audiences with its fall play, Neil Simon's The Good Doctor.
The Good Doctor, a comedy based on short stories by Russian writer Anton Chekov, is episodic, evocative, and downright funny. Northwest Catholic’s Dramateurs, the school’s stellar acting troupe, nailed every vignette with skill and verve. Audience members were struck by these young actors’ deep and clear understanding of irony as well as their command of rapid-fire dialogue. The Russian references were no match for this bright and talented crew. But perhaps more impressive than the actors’ spot-on timing and sophisticated delivery was their understanding of the human condition — that people are flawed and silly and manipulative and masters of their own demise. Each vignette highlighted one or more of life’s challenges and its players’ foibles, and not one actor missed a beat.
The episodes of The Good Doctor hold together as the character "The Writer,” meant to be Chekov himself, weaves through a single motif -- humans are, well, human. Through chapters such as “The Sneeze,” “A Defenseless Creature,” and “A Drowned Man,” Simon, following Chekov’s lead, depicts how easy it is for people to get knotted in the absurd. This willingness to walk headlong into trouble is further demonstrated in “The Seduction” and “A Quiet War.” Simon takes Chekov’s stories and masterfully transfers them to the stage, executing the lifts and dips of interpersonal communication and the complexities of human relationships.
For the lay-viewer, determining what’s Chekov and what’s Simon is difficult to distill, but one thing is certain: both artists knew comedy. Add to that another truth — Northwest Catholic’s students know humor too, and voila! a rollicking performance ensued.
Dramateurs Artistic Director/Producer and Northwest Catholic English teacher Sara Avery said, “Neil Simon produced timeless, classic comedy, and we need this, especially when the world is in turmoil as it is now.” Avery also remarked, “One of the great things about the structure of The Good Doctor is that it’s a collection of vignettes, which allows many students to get involved. We had several fall athletes on stage.”
In terms of the talent at Northwest Catholic, Avery keeps it real: “Yes, the students are talented, but they’re also typical. It’s not that they’re all incredible actors. They work hard. What we’re most proud of is who they are as people. They are kind, generous, and inclusive. They welcome one another to rehearsal every day. They work as a team. They really are a family.”
Dramateurs Director and NWC Academic Support advisor Kate Morran echoes Avery’s sentiments. Moran said, “As long as I’ve been at NWC the Dramateurs have always been a kind, smart, silly, and talented group of young people. That said, this group came together as an ensemble in a really special way. Not only did they perform at a high level artistically, they were also a joy to work with. As a director, saying ‘I’m proud’ is an understatement.”
Like its directors, Northwest Catholic, as an entire community, is proud of its theater program. The school continues to astound audiences each year as its productions showcase their aspiring artists. The spring musical The Little Mermaid will be March 29, 30, and April 1, and the public is encouraged to attend. To learn more about Northwest Catholic’s Dramateurs, visit nwcdramateurs.weebly.com, and to learn more about the school, visit northwestcatholic.org.