Hospital comedy tickles the funny bone

By |2018-01-16T11:36:03-05:00November 12th, 2009|Entertainment|

As soon as the house lights went down and the theme music from the 1980s television series “St. Elsewhere” started, I laughed – and I continued to laugh, chuckle and grin throughout the entire world premiere performance of the comedy “Causa Mortis or The Medical Student” at the Detroit Repertory Theatre.
And with good reason:
Playwright Jacob M. Appel’s scalpel-sharp, satirical examination of the health care system is just what the doctor ordered to raise your spirits – unless you’re scheduled for surgery any time soon, that is!
Set in the neurology ward of an unnamed hospital, Eleanor (Sandra Birch) refuses surgery to remove a life-threatening Swiss watch that was left in her skull four decades earlier during the removal of a tumor – not because she’s afraid, but because of two odd-defying incidents that have left the chief surgeon, Dr. Gwendolyn Falk (Deborah Carter), too scared to perform the necessary procedure. In the meantime, an amnesiac with a death wish (Yolanda Jack) shares Eleanor’s room, and together they torture a nervous medical student (Lisa Lauren Smith) whose ineptitude could be painful – for the hospital’s malpractice insurer. But when secret deals are struck, will everyone get what they asked for?
Appel’s script gently pokes a needle in the eyes of an industry that far-too often refuses to admit its human failings. And in the capable hands of director Bruce E. Millan, the points he makes are often hysterically – yet frighteningly – revealing.
Millan’s staging is brisk and efficient. But his strongest assets are his actors.
Birch – as always – is in top form, creating yet another delightfully off-kilter character. She’s matched by Jack and Smith, as well as by Leah Smith and Kelly Komlen who play Eleanor’s polar-opposite daughters.
The only weak spot is Carter, who was a bit stiff and unnatural throughout much of opening night.
Excellent sound choices by designer Burr Huntington and fine technical execution contribute greatly to the show’s appeal.

REVIEW:
‘Causa Mortis or The Medical Student’
Detroit Repertory Theatre, 13103 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit. Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 27, plus New Year’s Eve. $17-$20. 313-868-1347. http://www.detroitreptheatre.com

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