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Adriano Cappelletta onstage with Sandra Bates.

THEATRE: 22 JANUARY 2016

By JOHN ROZENTALS

The Good Doctor, by Neil Simon (“channelling Chekov”) | Directed by Sandra Bates

Ensemble Theatre | Glen Street Theatre (www.glenstreet.com.au), Belrose, Sydney | Until 24 January

Ensemble Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor, currently on show at Glen Street Theatre in Belrose on Sydney’s northern extremities, marks the end of an era for Sydney theatre.

It’s the last Ensemble production under the helm of Sandra Bates as the company’s artistic director —a position she has held for some 30 years, making her the longest-serving artistic director for any Australian company.

That’s quite an achievement in an industry where fashions can be quite ephemeral.

And a work by Neil Simon — who has been described as the world’s best loved playwright — is a very appropriate choice for Bates to go out on.

His is the sort of social commentary, often very funny, that Ensemble Theatre does so well and is very much at home with — superficially light-hearted by sometimes quite cutting, poignant and multi-layered.

Simon has figured prominently in the Ensemble’s repertoire under Bates’s artistic direction, with The Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Sunshine Boys, The Prisoner of Second Avenue and Barefoot in the Park among his works performed at Kirribilli.

The Good Doctor essentially consists of about a dozen short items inspired by the works of Russian playwright Anton Chekov and held together by commentary from “The Writer”, played by Adriano Cappelletta, who stepped in to replace Glenn Hazeldine after the latter suffered a shoulder injury.

Bates, who is also director of this production, has assembled a talented quartet to round out the performance — Chloe Bayliss, David Lynch, Lenore Smith and Nathan Wilson.

Look, I found the entire performance engaging, but if I had to pick favourite scenes I’d go for Surgery, in which a dentist’s overzealous desire to extract an aching tooth has the patient whimpering and the audience cringing, and The Drowned Man, an exercise in “maritime entertainment” involving a entrepreneurial down-and-outer offering feigned drownings as a means of making a living.

And I really liked designer Graham MacLean’s magnificent set that created an atmosphere very redolent of a 19th-century drawing room or study.

There’s only a very short season for this, but it’s well worth making the effort to get along to Belrose. And the restaurant in the nearby Belrose Hotel offers some delicious fare.

David Lynch and Nathan Wilson.

Chloe Bayliss.

Nathan Wilson.

Adriano Cappelletta.