By Darlene Donloe
There is a lot going on in Eliza Clark’s Quack, now enjoying its world premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City through November 18.
On the surface, this comedy looks like it has to do with one thing, but in actuality, it deals with a myriad of issues.
Up front is whether or not a TV doctor is guilty of giving out medical information that may have led to a child’s death.
Here are the players. There is Dr. Irving Baer (Dan Bucatinsky), his trusty assistant Kelly (Jackie Chung), his wife Meredith (Jessalyn Gilsig), a podcaster named Brock (Nicholas D’Agosto) and a determined journalist named River Thumbolt (Shoniqua Shandai).
When the show opens, Dr. Baer, who throughout the show reminds the audience he is an endocrinologist, is reclined in a chair in his New York studio office, chewing the fat with his assistant, Kelly, who is also a nurse. A self-absorbed type who loves to hear himself talk, Dr. Baer wants her to tell him what is happening with a magazine article coming out about him that could be damaging to his reputation and disastrous for his career. Allegedly, during a segment of his show, he didn’t take a stance on the controversial vaccinations debate, which left open the possibility of a link with autism.
|Shoniqua Shandai and Dan Bucatinsky|
The article is written by River Thumbolt, a persistent reporter who portrays Dr. Baer as an anti-vaccine advocate who’s responsible for the deaths of several children due to a measles outbreak. The article titled “If It Looks Like A Duck,” questions Dr. Baer’s reliability and judgment. Of course, Dr. Baer’s ego is bruised. He becomes obsessed with Thumbolt and why she would choose to come after him so hard. How could someone malign him or question his 20-year medical career?
The article also takes aim at his annoying, opinionated, coarse wife who has a questionable diet business.
Unable to stop the media avalanche or slow down the industry and network whispers, Dr. Baer, unable to defend himself, has to come to grips with his show being canceled.
Although it comes in at two hours Quack seems a lot longer because it’s mostly talking heads. There are unnecessary scenes that don’t move the show forward, which ultimately drags the show to its conclusion. There were actually no less than three moments when the show could have ended – only to have the stage turn for yet another scene.
Thank goodness the dialogue is witty, the delivery is fast-paced and the acting is top-notch. That being said, the characters were irritating. ALL of them are irritating. Bucatinsky is annoyingly good as Dr. Baer. Gilsig is deliciously abrasive as Meredith. Jackie Chung holds her own as Kelly, as does Shoniqua Shandai as River. Nicholas D’Agosto plays Brock, who uses his voice to empower men who appear to be the victims of women allegedly trying to cut them down to size.
Quack, a recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, was written and developed in part with Center Theatre Group’s L.A. Writers’ Workshop and further developed by Center Theatre Group.
Quack, directed by Neel Keller and written by Eliza Clark, stars Dan Bucatinsky, Jackie Chung, Jessalyn Gilsig, Shoniqua Shandai, and Nicholas D’Agosto.
Kudos to Dane Laffrey (set design), Raquel Barreto (costume design), Robbin E. Broad (sound design), Elizabeth Harper (lighting design) and Michael K. Hooker (original music).
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Quack gets an O (oh, yeah).
Quack, Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. on Sundays through November 18; $25-$72 (subject to change); 213 628-2772 or www. Centertheatregroup.org
Running time: 2 hours, with no intermission
All photos by Craig Schwartz