March 18, 2005

Here's to your health
Play offers spiritual themes as well as comic relief, director says
By TOM SIME Staff Critic

Once again, Theatre Three is presenting a comedy set in the South. And once again, Terry Dobson has been tapped to participate. "I don't know why, but I seem to be the resident Southern expert here at Theatre Three," he deadpans in the drawl of his native Alabama.

His previous trips down South for the company have been as an actor in the likes of For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, Tobacco Road, Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music and God's Man in Texas. This time Mr. Dobson is directing.

Medicine, Man, written by Jeffrey Stanley (Tesla's Letters), is the story of Calvin Barker (Scott Latham), a Virginia "redneck" whose mother has been stricken with a mysterious illness studied with great interest by the ambitious Dr. Sue Morrison (Kerry Cole). While on hospital vigil, Calvin is visited not only by his mother's greedy friends and relatives, but by Swimmer (R Bruce Elliott), a mysterious Cherokee who appears to be able to walk through walls.

The play "has a little bit of something for everyone," says Mr. Dobson. "It's a comedy, but it's got really deep themes to it. Not only the mysticism of the Indian medicine man and those religious and spiritual traditions, but the play also is about sibling rivalry and about how two very mismatched people can become attracted to each other."

For the doctor and Calvin "find that even though he's a Southern NASCAR beer-drinking redneck from Virginia and she's a Harvard graduate doctor, they're attracted to each other," says Mr. Dobson.

He says the play has some common elements with Del Shores' Daddy's Dyin'... Who's Got the Will?, though Medicine, Man is not as farcical and adds a dimension of genuine spirituality.

"Calvin is being bombarded in the hospital waiting room by his sister, who's come down from New York to get the money from the will," Mr. Dobson says. "And the mother's preacher boyfriend has come to the waiting room to get the money from the will. And the doctor, who's been working on the mother, has her own reason for getting Calvin's allegiance. They all start bombarding him, and he falls and hits his head, and then in this extended fantasy sequence, we find out who Swimmer is and why he's been hanging around in the hospital "

It has to do with "the Cherokee tradition of reincarnation, the belief that all our souls come back and you work out problems in each life."

(c)2005 by Dallas Morning News.