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A Doctor in Spite of Himself 

When: Tuesdays, Fridays, 8 p.m., Thursdays, Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. and Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 25 2012
Price: $14.50-$73

Molière's fascination with moral and ethical themes might explain the longevity of his plays. Or perhaps it's his ability to communicate something essential about human relationships. Or, in the case of Le Médecinmalgrélui(The Doctor in Spite of Himself), it might just be a trick of fortune that 21st-century medicine suffers some of the same quandaries that plagued doctors in 17th-century France. We're not attributing illness to the four humors anymore, but there's certainly a leap of faith required in just about any diagnosis. At any rate, Doctor is endlessly transmutable and perfectly translatable to a modern audience. Berkeley Rep proved as much in its new rendition, which borrows commedia dell'arte aesthetics but makes them campy -- two lead characters, the woodsman Sganarelle (played by co-writer Steven Epp) and his wife Martine (Justine Williams) have a Punch-and-Judy-style spat in the opening scene, which takes place partly in a puppet theater. Rife with dick jokes and larded with pop culture references, the play is a fabulously extravagant sendup. It's fitting that director Christopher Bayes is also a master clown. Through March 25 at Berkeley Rep (2025 Addison St., Berkeley). $14.50-$73.

— Rachel Swan

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