Bad Medicine

Prognosis negative: Hospital farce papers over the quacks

Three surgeons in a Washington, D.C., hospital get refamiliarized with the depths of their incompetence when the president arriv es on the cutting board, a bullet lodged in his cerebellum. Brian Parks's slapstick medical farce (first produced in 1999) takes giddy aim at everyone in view, but in terms of satirical bite, it inflicts only superficial wounds. Lead physician Warren Wyandotte (David Calvitto) is a garrulous fool who bumbles between patients while creepily doting on his daughter Wixom (Jona Tuck), a stool-sample analyst. Meanwhile, attending doctor and get-rich-quick shyster Ecorse Southgate (Matt Oberg) shows off his latest invention, Chemotherapy Barbie, whose hair is designed to fall out in thick clumps. Poor intern Hoyt Schermerhorn (Jody Lambert) can only watch passively as the ER antics spin progressively out of control.

Everyone in Goner is clueless and innocent, even the president (Bill Coelius), a Bushian buffoon who wistfully rationalizes capital punishment by explaining "it was good enough for Jesus." For a play stuffed silly with easy targets, it's puzzling why Parks (a former Voice theater editor) makes scant reference to such obvious elephants in the operating room as HMOs or prescription medication. Instead, we get fifth-grade gross-out humor, tired jokes about dumb rich white folk, and a rapid-fire procession of smug one-liners, the majority of which flatline on contact. One has only to rent the Paddy Chayefsky–scripted The Hospital to get a taste of intensive-care humor at its most clear-sighted and cynical. Infinitely less ambitious, Goner strives to be about as funny and memorable as an episode of Scrubs.

 
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