Skewering the Bar in Bristol

Second Story Theatre's current production pokes fun at both doctors and lawyers.

There are plenty of books featuring jokes about lawyers, from New Yorker cartoons to a title called Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture.

Doctors don’t get off much easier. But poking fun at these learned professions is nothing new, as an entertaining night of plays produced by Second Story Theatre shows. Staged at the Bristol Statehouse, two comedies from the seventeenth century—Moliere’s A Doctor in Spite of Himself and Jean Racine’s The Suitors—show that the French playwrights’ humor stands the test of time. 

In A Doctor In Spite of Himself, a woodworker named Sganarelle (Jim Sullivan) gets into a fight with his wife, Martine (Liz Hallenbeck), who vows revenge. She tells two men that her husband is a doctor. Soon, Sganarelle is whisked away to figure out what’s wrong with Lucinde (Erin Olson), whose father thinks she has lost the power of speech, but really doesn’t want to marry a man she doesn’t love.

Sganarelle quickly adapts to the financial promise of his new profession. “I’ll get any fee I like? Then I’m a doctor,” he says. The plot thickens as he develops a fondness for Lucinde’s wet nurse (Paula Faber) and learns the true reason for Lucinde’s silence. Fast-paced and filled with dialogue skewering both marriage and the medical profession, the play is fun from start to finish.

Then it’s off to the lawyers. Using the same cast of actors, “The Suitors” roasts the legal profession, from an addled judge to a litigation-happy countess (Paula Faber) and father, Chicanneau (Bill Oakes). As with the previous play, a love story is at the center of the comedy, but most of the fun is in the high-paced antics, schemes and rhyming verse.

The plays run through Dec. 18, with performances Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 or $20 for people under 21. The performances are held at the Bristol Statehouse, 240 High St., Bristol. 247-4200.