For 25 seasons, ShawChicago has been entertaining lovers of classic Anglo-Irish comedy with readers’ theater renditions of the works of George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, J.M. Barrie, and Noel Coward, among others. The company will cease operations this year following the death of its longtime artistic director Robert Scogin; for its last production, it’s presenting the same play with which it debuted in 1994—The Doctor’s Dilemma, one of Shaw’s sharpest works—in a beautifully spoken performance under the direction of Gary Alexander.
The 1906 play concerns an eminent London physician, Sir Colenso Ridgeon, who finds himself in a perplexing position. He has developed a groundbreaking new treatment for tuberculosis (an incurable disease in Shaw’s time), but his busy boutique medical practice has room for only one new patient. Faced with two terminal cases, he must decide which impoverished patient is more worth saving: a mediocre but good-hearted fellow doctor or a brilliant young artist who’s also an amoral scoundrel—and whose wife Ridgeon is infatuated with. This prickly premise gives Shaw ample opportunity to explore an array of ethical, scientific, and emotional complexities in one of his most intriguing, caustic, and literate scripts.
The excellent cast includes Timothy W. Hull as Ridgeon, Daniel Millhouse and Monica Orozco as the artist and his devoted wife, and Mark Richard as a misguided medical colleague of Ridgeon’s. v