Le Médecin Malgré Lui

California Stage

2509 R St.
Sacramento, CA 95816

(916) 451-5822

Rated 4.0

Ce Molière est amusant, fascinant et en français. Translation: this Molière is fun, fascinating and in French. For the third year, California Stage partners with the Alliance Française de Sacramento to present a unique theater experience in both French and English.

This year it’s Molière’s short medical farce Le Médecin Malgré Lui (The Doctor in Spite of Himself). The first half is performed entirely in French. Then, after intermission, the troupe presents the same play in English with the same sets and actors, and even the same affectations and expressions.

According to director Ray Tater, there was much discussion on whether to present the French or English version first. He made the right decision, but come armed with patience and read the story synopsis in the program if you aren’t bilingual. It’s entertaining and challenging to figure out the plotline, though as Tater says, “the story tells itself.”

You may not understand the dialogue, but you’ll get the basic idea from the exaggerated gestures and facial expressions. The payoff is viewing the English version after intermission to see how close you got, and to enjoy the English repartee and clever lines.

The first half is like traveling back in a time machine. The comedy is placed in 1660 in France just as Molière would have staged it, complete with French-style commedia dell’arte and clever period sets. Félicitations to set designer Mark Reddick and harpsichordist Alex Ives.

The second half is based in Quebec in 1890. The plot, centered on mocking the medical community, is almost too silly to explain. Basically, a woodcutter passes himself off as a doctor, and saves a rich man’s daughter from an unwanted arranged marriage. Havoc ensues.

Realism isn’t the point—fun is. Fortunately, that’s just what the cast excels in. Everyone shines, with applaudissements spéciaux pour James Craig Anderson as the doctor, Bonnie Antonini as his wife, Mark Heckman as the father, Camille VandenBerge as the daughter and Rita Brandes as the nursemaid.