Neil Simon’s series of short plays – some macabre, some uproarious, and others filled with great slapstick – made for a very entertaining night of pathos-laden comedy.

A writer relates his stories and wisdom to the audience, intermittently cutting to different episodes inspired by the plays of Anton Chekhov. This central role, along with several other minor roles, were originally cast with Glenn Hazeldine. At the commencement of the play, the audience were informed that Hazeldine, the day prior to the first preview, had suffered an injury and that the role had been taken up at the last minute by Adriano Cappelletta, who filled the role admiringly. His delivery was in parts haphazard and noticeably unrehearsed, but this did not stop him imbuing his scenes with empathy and a soft, charming humour.

Cappelletta’s slapstick, in particular a sequence involving an inexperienced yet persistent dentist, was laugh-out-loud funny, with his stage presence more often than not distracting from his last minute learning of the lines.

Best when depicting either the excessively physical or comically tragic fragments of Simon’s imagination, the above-mentioned ‘Surgery’ act and ‘The Sneeze,’ involving a man incessantly apologising for a poorly-timed gesundheit and both featuring Nathan Wilson in central roles, were among the highlights of the production.

‘The Drowned Man,’ about a performer drowning himself for the amusement of others also let David Lynch shine, while both ‘The Governess’ and ‘Too Late for Happiness’ allowed Kate Raison to display her considerable talent in a series of two-three performer set pieces.

As enjoyable as the short pieces are, ‘The Seduction’ was the one episode to lag, while ‘The Audition,’ the weakest of the short plays, could easily have been cut. A more than enjoyable show, The Good Doctor loses its momentum in the second half and with some selective scripting could have benefited as a quick-paced, interval-free production.

Worth seeing, an apt cast and the skill of a practiced playwright made The Good Doctor a great play which did not suffer significantly from the last-minute addition of the lead.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Good Doctor
By Neil Simon
Directed by Sandra Bates

Cast includes: Chloe Bayliss, Glenn Hazeldine, David Lynch, Kate Raison, Nathan Wilson and Adriano Cappelletta

Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli
27 November 2015 – 17 January 2016

Glen Falkenstein on ArtsHub