Sir Colenso Ridgeon has a health-care crisis. The physician, newly knighted for his experimental tuberculosis therapy, is faced with two terminal consumption cases that need his care; but the demands of his research (and the social politicking that goes along with it) allow him time to treat only one. Which patient should he save? A decent but mediocre fellow doctor, or a brilliant young artist whose amoral life-style offends Ridgeon–and whose wife Ridgeon is infatuated with? With its caustic observations about the uncertain ethics, unnecessary expense, and elitist arrogance of the medical profession (and its sidelong swipes at irresponsible journalists, self-aggrandizing artists, unaffordable insurance, and the links between sexual morality and economic inequity), George Bernard Shaw’s 1906 black comedy speaks almost too resonantly to an America in the throes of insurance reform and the AIDS epidemic. Hilarious, stimulating, and disturbing as only Shaw can be, it’s being performed in a reader’s-theater format that proves eminently hospitable to the material; what’s lost in visual appeal is more than made up for by the script’s stingingly funny character descriptions (read by a narrator) and the deliciously droll characterizations of the actors–especially the wonderfully astringent Robert Scogin and the scathingly supercilious Donald Brearley. Staged by Andrew Callis, a young director with a real flair for this material, the production is a pilot for a proposed series of Shaw readings sponsored by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs. Chicago Cultural Center, studio theater, 78 E. Washington, 744-6630. Through March 27: Sundays, 3 PM. Free.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Taylor Boyle, courtesy of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.