`The Doctor's Dilemma' at A Noise Within in Pasadena explores timeless issues
The work explores ethics in the healthcare industry through the story of a doctor in 1906, who has discovered a cure for tuberculosis. He can only treat 10 people and his beds are full when two more needy cases appear - one is a kind colleague who serves the poor and the other is a talented young artist. But there's a deeper twist.
At the same time the artist's wife is pleading for her husband's life, his unscrupulous character is being revealed to the doctor. Adding to the weighty decision, the physician finds himself pulled emotionally, as he falls in love with the beautiful wife.
"The truth is there's a question of the difference between acting in your own self-interests or acting in the interests of others, so the real doctor's dilemma is what he'd really like to do is let this guy die and marry his wife someday, but ethics and morality tell us that's not what he should do," director Damaso Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez has worked with A Noise Within previously, as well as with the Pasadena Playhouse and is one of the founding artistic directors of the Furious Theatre Company. Rodriguez said the other big question addressed by the play is, should a person's character be considered in the cases at all, adding that today, doctors are morally obligated to help someone no matter their background. "The thing for people to chew on is what is our responsibility to others versus our responsibility to ourselves. The play becomes extremely relevant when you look at the healthcare debate," Rodriguez said.
The production has presented a few challenges for Rodriguez. Shaw's works tend to run long, so it was necessary to adapt and streamline "The Doctor's Dilemma" to make it more accessible to audiences. It also needs accomplished actors who can handle the complicated roles - fortunately A Noise Within has an able cadre of veteran performers.
"Shaw's writing is extremely dense and complex, multi-layered and so to get to the heart of what he's doing you need a really great cast," Rodriguez said.
The classic play is very different from what Rodriguez has directed previously, as he has made his mark for his directorial skills of new productions. Yet this piece is rarely done and contains many of the elements of the dark comedies Rodriguez finds endearing, so he is able to approach it with a fresh, modern feel.
"The base of my work is to get really great actors and dig into the text and to make it very honest and raise the stakes. It doesn't matter if it's Shaw, it doesn't matter if I have a history doing it," Rodriguez said. "The substance of (Shaw's) work sounds heavy, but I've been really pleased how funny his work is... It speaks very seriously, yet it manages to find a tone where it can be both funny and dramatic and in that, it's an interesting and complicated play."
Having directed six consecutive shows up to now, Rodriguez will be on hiatus at least through the end of the year. He has no set plans for the future, but is working on ideas with Furious Theatre for 2013.
In addition to the presentation of "The Doctor's Dilemma," on Oct. 23 there will be a free reading of George Bernard Shaw's drama, "The Devil's Disciple," at 7:30 p.m.
The Doctor's Dilemma
In repertory selected dates through Nov. 25, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays
A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena
626-962-8811 Ext. 2128